Two Syrians walk along a fence near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey, November 30, 2016. Syrians who arrived in Turkey since late 2017 have been unable to register for temporary protection and receive basic services.

© 2016 Umit Bektas/Reuters
(Istanbul) – Turkish authorities in Istanbul and nine provinces on or near the Syrian border have stopped registering all but a handful of recently arrived Syrian asylum seekers. The suspension is leading to unlawful deportations, coerced returns to Syria, and the denial of health care and education.

The European Commission has recently praised Turkey’s asylum system and plans to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 migration deal which includes support for refugees in Turkey. European Union institutions and governments have stayed publicly silent on the suspension and other refugee abuses committed by Turkey, suggesting their primary concern is to halt the movement of asylum seekers and migrants from Turkey to the EU.

“While the EU supports Turkey to deter asylum seekers from reaching Europe, it’s turning a blind eye to Turkey’s latest steps to block and discourage people fleeing Syria,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “But forcing Syrians who manage to get past Turkey’s border guards to live in legal limbo only risks driving them underground and onward to the EU.”

Syrian refugees queue for food aid in Gaziantep, Turkey on May 20, 2016. Turkey’s suspension of Syrian refugee registration blocks them from receiving such aid.

© 2016 Kyodo/ AP Images
The suspension of registration is Turkey’s latest effort to deny new asylum seekers protection. Over the past three years, Turkey has sealed off its border with Syria, while Turkish border guards continue to carry out mass summary pushbacks and to kill and injure Syrians as they try to cross.

Between early 2011 and the end of May 2018, Turkey had registered almost 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world’s largest refugee hosting country. That generosity does not absolve it, or its international partners, of the duty to help newly arrived asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said. 

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrians in Turkey’s Hatay province about their attempts to register for a temporary protection permit in Hatay, Gaziantep, and Istanbul provinces. A permit protects Syrians from arrest and the risk of deportation. It also entitles them to get health care and education, to work, and to seek social assistance, including the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net for the most vulnerable Syrians.

Syrians said Turkish police deported them in groups of up to 20 people for not having a permit and that hospitals and schools refused to take them in without permits. Some said they returned to Syria so they, or their relatives, could get urgent medical care. Others said they decided to return to Syria because only some family members had been able to register. All said, they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and severely restricted their movement to avoid the police.

Turkey is bound by the international customary law rule of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone in any manner whatsoever to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life. This includes asylum seekers, who are entitled to have their claims fairly adjudicated and not be summarily returned to places where they fear harm. Turkey may not coerce people into returning to places where they face harm by denying them legal status or access to essential services.

On October 30, 2017, the Hatay governor’s office said that to discourage smugglers from helping Syrians enter Turkey through Hatay, the province would no longer register newly arriving Syrians for temporary protection permits. In early February 2018, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said Istanbul province would also no longer register Syrians.

Eight other provinces on or near the Syrian border have also suspended registration for newly arriving Syrians since late 2017 or early 2018, according to three agencies working closely with Syrian refugees, as well as a European Commission official and a Turkish public official who previously worked on migration issues. The provinces are Adana, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Mardin, Mersin, Osmaniye, and Şanlıurfa.

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© 2018 DigitalGlobe and © 2018 Human Rights Watch

Since late August 2015, only registered Syrians who obtain a special travel permit have been allowed to travel within Turkey. In practice, the vast majority of Syrian asylum seekers enter Turkey irregularly through the few remaining gaps in Turkey’s border wall in Hatay province. Blocked from registering there, they are unable to lawfully leave Hatay province and travel to other provinces where registration has not been closed. This forces them to live illegally in Hatay province, or to use smugglers to reach other parts of Turkey, risking arrest and deportation.

According to three confidential sources, Turkey has rejected proposals for a new system that would allow Syrians arriving in Hatay, and to a far lesser extent in other border provinces, to register in other parts of Turkey where fewer refugees live.

Refugee agencies told Human Rights Watch that Turkey’s strict controls on international and local refugee agencies prevent them from finding and helping unregistered Syrians. This lack of aid agency monitoring means that there are no statistics or estimates on the numbers of Syrians denied registration, deported, or refused urgently needed services.

In response to a June 13 letter presenting the Human Rights Watch findings, the migration authorities in Ankara denied that any of the country’s 81 provinces, including Hatay and Istanbul, had suspended registration of Syrians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told Human Rights Watch that as of mid-May, the authorities had reassured them that registration of Syrians was ongoing, including in Hatay and Istanbul. Other aid agencies that support refugees say that the authorities in the 10 provinces have only continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension, and to register urgent medical cases referred from Syria and babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey. Two refugee aid agencies also said that in some cases they have managed to convince the authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye provinces to register particularly vulnerable unregistered Syrians.

In early 2018, the authorities in Hatay opened a new registration center in Antakya. Representatives of three aid agencies and two Turkish security personnel working in Antakya said the center is exclusively for unregistered Syrians to request help to return to Syria, while registered Syrians can request help to return at other migration authority-run centers.

Turkey does not allow any independent monitoring of whether unregistered Syrians signing up for return are in fact returning voluntarily or whether they are effectively being coerced. In contrast, Turkey does allow independent monitoring of some registered Syrians’ decision to return to Syria.

Turkey should protect the basic rights of all newly arriving Syrians, regardless of registration status, and register those denied registration since late 2017. The European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should support Turkey to register and protect Syrians and press Turkey to allow all agencies working for refugees to freely assist and help protect all Syrians, including all unregistered Syrians.

“Unregistered Syrians in Turkey may be conveniently out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind,” Simpson said. “EU states and the commission should speak up and support all Syrians in Turkey, not just those who got in before Turkey started driving them underground.”

For more details about Turkey’s suspension of Syrian asylum seeker registration, please see below.

Asylum Seeker Registration

The first Syrian refugees fled to Turkey in early 2011 and in the subsequent three-and-a-half years, Turkey adopted an ad hoc approach to their registration, without conferring a clear legal status with related rights. Although Turkey ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the country maintains a geographical limitation that excludes anyone not originally from a European country from full refugee recognition. That means it does not fully grant asylum to people fleeing violence or persecution in Syria and any other non-European country.

In 2013, Turkey adopted its own legal framework on the protection of asylum seekers and refugees. In October 2014, Turkey also adopted a regulation under which it grants Syrians temporary protection. As of June 28, 2018, Turkey said it had registered 3,562,523 people under the regulation. Registered Syrians are entitled to assistance. Even though the regulation says Syrians who fail to register will not be deported to Syria and will only face an “administrative fine,” Human Rights Watch found that unregistered Syrians have been deported for not having temporary protection permits.

The Hatay governor’s office and the interior minister said registration has been suspended for newly arriving Syrians in Hatay and Istanbul. Refugee aid agencies and Syrians in Hatay’s main city, Antakya, told Human Rights Watch that police carried out mass arrests of Syrians in November and early December, just after registration was suspended.

Five sources told Human Rights Watch that since late 2017 and early 2018, migration authorities in eight other border provinces followed suit and turned away all newly arriving Syrians seeking registration.

As of June 28, seven of the provinces that suspended registration were in the top 10 provinces hosting Syrians: Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Kilis, Mersin, and Şanlıurfa. Together they were sheltering 2,422,804 registered Syrians, or 68 percent of the total in Turkey. The other three – Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, and Osmaniye – were sheltering 235,549, or just under seven percent.

Aid agencies say that, in practice, the authorities in affected provinces continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension and to register people with urgent medical needs referred from Syria. They also continued to register babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey, an estimated 306 each day. Agencies with first-hand knowledge of the suspension of registration in the 10 provinces say the registration of these Syrians may explain the claim authorities made to Human Rights Watch that eight of the provinces on or near the border registered a total of 116,059 Syrians between November 1 and June 20.

One refugee aid agency with close knowledge of registration procedures in all of Turkey’s provinces told Human Rights Watch that in a few exceptional cases, authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye province have registered children in urgent need of medical care, together with one caregiver. Another refugee assistance agency that sometimes deals with unregistered Syrians said that between late 2017 and late April 2018, it had convinced the Hatay authorities to register a few dozen newly arrived Syrians on an exceptional basis because they had specific needs, but that even then it was a “headache” to get them through police checkpoints to registration offices. Agencies estimate that as of mid-May, the total number of such vulnerable cases of unregistered Syrians whom the authorities have registered on an exceptional basis was in the low hundreds.

Turkey’s travel permit system for registered Syrians prohibits unregistered Syrians from traveling from border provinces to register elsewhere. Seven Syrians told Human Rights Watch they paid smugglers to drive them from Antakya, in Hatay province, to Istanbul to register. But security officials at migration authority offices in Istanbul told them registration had been suspended for newly arriving Syrians.

UNHCR and some diplomats in Turkey told Human Rights Watch they have been encouraging Turkey’s Directorate General for Migration Management to adopt a referral system under which authorities in Hatay, or other border provinces where Syrians first arrive, would pre-register Syrians and then refer them to other provinces where fewer Syrians live to register. Some EU member states have proposed that if such a system were to be adopted, the EU should help support job-creation for Syrians and Turkish citizens in the provinces to which Syrians are referred. But all attempts to convince Turkey to set up a referral system have failed.

Consequences of Suspended Registration

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrian asylum seekers in Antakya, the capital of Hatay Province, and the first city most Syrians reach after being smuggled across the closed Turkish border. They said the authorities in Antakya, the nearby town of Reyhanli, and in Gaziantep province had refused to register them during the first few months of 2018. They also described how not having a temporary protection permit – or “kimlik,” as it is popularly called (a Turkish shorthand for identification card) – had affected them. Human Rights Watch explained the purpose of the interviews, gave assurances of anonymity, and obtained interviewees’ consent to describe their experiences.

All said they were turned away from registration offices at least twice. Only three said they managed to register after brokers bribed registration officials between US$300 and $500.

Most said officials simply said “no more kimliks here” or “no one gets a kimlik” and told them to leave. Two said they also tried to register in Gaziantep in April, but that saw a sign on the office that said “no kimliks.”

Four said that only some members of their family had been registered, leaving the rest in legal limbo and that as a result, the entire family was contemplating returning to Syria. One man said his sick wife was given permission to enter Turkey for emergency medical treatment in Antakya, and was allowed to register there, together with their newborn baby. When he and their five other children, aged 6 to 14, managed to enter Turkey and tried to register in Antakya, they were turned away.

Three Syrians said that Turkish police had previously summarily deported them to Syria for not having a temporary protection permit. One, a 22-year-old man from Aleppo governorate, said he entered Turkey in early April and was refused registration in Antakya. In early May, he said, police stopped him at about 8 a.m. near the Antakya bus station and asked for his permit. When he said he tried to register, but had been turned away, the police drove him to a local police station, recorded his personal details, and then drove him and about 20 other unregistered Syrians to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported them. He said 15 of the 20 told him they had been caught without temporary protection permits in Istanbul and the other five said they had just entered Turkey a few days earlier and were arrested after arriving at a smuggler’s house in Antakya. A few days later, he managed to return to Turkey with smugglers.

Another former deportee, a 28-year-old man from Idlib, said he and his brother entered Turkey together in January and were denied registration in Antakya. He said his brother traveled with a smuggler to Istanbul to find work there, but Turkish police arrested him on May 17 and the next day, took him to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported him.

On May 22, Human Rights Watch spoke to a 31-year-old man from Hama who said the authorities in Antakya had arrested his brother a few hours earlier, were holding him in the new center for unregistered Syrians to sign up to return to Syria, and said they were about to deport him. Human Rights Watch alerted UNHCR, which intervened and prevented the deportation.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four Syrians at the newly established center for unregistered Syrians who wish to sign up for return to Syria. They decided to go back because their relatives had been denied urgent medical care, or because some family members who arrived after registration was suspended could not register.

Two Syrians said they heard from other Syrians in Antakya about many cases in which the wives of men who had been deported told Turkish authorities they planned to go back to Syria because they and their children could not survive alone in Turkey.

All of the 29 other unregistered Syrians interviewed said they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and said they heard of many cases involving the deportation of unregistered Syrians. Eight said they reduced their movements to a minimum, often staying at home for days at a time. A 17-year-old boy who said he never left his uncle’s house in Antakya out of fear of arrest said “this feels like prison.”

Three unregistered Syrians said they regularly use Syrian-owned driving services which use back roads to avoid police checkpoints or informal police stop-and-search patrols in Antakya.

Nine said they attempted to get medical treatment in clinics and hospitals in Antakya, but had been refused treatment because they were not registered. Four others said they did not even try to access medical care, because they heard others were turned away, and because they were afraid local hospitals would call the police to arrest them for not having a permit.

A 27-year-old woman from Idlib province seeking cancer treatment said two hospitals in Antakya refused to treat her because she did not have a permit.

A 34-year-old, eight months’ pregnant woman from Aleppo, with four children all born by caesarean section, said she was too afraid to go to the local hospital to ask for a checkup and prepare for her delivery, because she had been told hospitals turn away unregistered Syrians and was afraid of being arrested and returned to Syria.

Similarly, a 31-year-old woman whose entire family was refused registration in March said her husband was extremely sick with a serious lung condition, but he would not go to a hospital out of fear of being arrested and deported. She said he never left the house and lived in constant fear of being discovered.

A nongovernmental organization working with Syrians in Hatay province said that during the first few months of 2018, they heard of dozens of cases of Syrians in Antakya seeking emergency medical care, many of them pregnant women, who were turned away by hospitals because they had been denied registration.

Six Syrians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said their children were unable to go to school, because schools would only take registered Syrians.

Nowhere to Turn for Help

The Turkish authorities consider Syrians denied registration to be in the country unlawfully. Nongovernmental groups working with refugees said the government only allows them to work with lawfully present asylum seekers and refugees.

Six organizations working with refugees in Turkey’s provinces on the Syrian border – which asked to remain anonymous for the staff’s security – said Turkey strictly controls and monitors their work in various ways.

Some said they must get special permission to assess registered Syrians’ assistance needs or to visit registered Syrians’ homes, in some cases in the presence of staff from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies. The agencies said the rules are applied in an ad hoc and unpredictable way, depending on the local authorities, and they are never certain of what refugee outreach activities are allowed.

As a result, they said, they found it difficult to identify Syrians blocked from registration procedures, including the most vulnerable, for example those in urgent need of medical or other care. They also said the situation in Hatay province – through which almost all newly arriving Syrians using smugglers enter the country due to continued gaps in the border wall – is particularly sensitive.

Because of the restrictions imposed by the Turkish authorities, aid agencies said they cannot proactively identify unregistered Syrian refugees. At best, they can only react if they are made aware of unregistered Syrians who are seeking help, or if they come across them by chance. They said they sometimes raise the most vulnerable of such cases with the authorities in the hope that they will allow those in urgent need to register.

One agency working in the border areas said: “It’s very simple, we can’t just reach out to registered or unregistered Syrians. We need approval for everything and we’d never get approval to help unregistered Syrians.” Another agency worker said: “We have repeatedly asked the authorities for permission to do protection outreach work, but we’ve been refused every time.”

Agencies said their extremely limited contact with unregistered Syrians means they can neither estimate how many unregistered Syrians now live in Hatay and other provinces, nor the extent to which the registration suspension has led to deportation and denial of service access. EU member states and other donors funding Syrian refugee assistance and protection projects in Turkey therefore don’t know the extent to which Turkey’s registration suspension is excluding Syrians from receiving help.

European Union Remains Silent

EU member states and the European Commission have remained publicly silent on Turkey’s registration suspension, as they have on Turkey’s long-standing abuses against Syrian asylum seekers at the border.

Turkey’s suspension of registration could drive many Syrians underground and onward to the EU, or coerce them into going back to Syria. The suspension, Turkey’s ongoing border abuses, and its recent abuses against Afghan asylum seekers means that any attempts to return Syrians from Greece to Turkey is also likely to be met with significant resistance by lawyers challenging return attempts on the grounds that Turkey is not a safe third country to which to return asylum seekers.

On April 17, the European Commission released its latest update on whether Turkey is meeting the EU’s criteria for becoming an EU member state. As part of its assessment of Turkey’s asylum system, the commission said: “There have been reports of alleged expulsions, returns and deportations of Syrian nationals, in contradiction of the non-refoulement principle,” without going into any further details or citing the sources.

In March, the European Commission promised to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 deal with Turkey. Under the deal, the EU maintains that Turkey is a safe country to which to return Syrian asylum seekers. In fact, Turkey does not meet the EU safe third country criteria.

Recommendations

Turkey should resume temporary protection registration for all newly arriving Syrians and register those denied access to registration since late 2017. If necessary, Turkey should pre-register Syrians in its provinces on the Syrian border and require Syrians to move to, and live in, other provinces with fewer Syrians. In the meantime, Turkey should instruct all medical facilities to provide emergency medical treatment to any Syrian in need, regardless of registration status. Schools should also take in Syrian children pending their registration. All Turkish public officials should refer unregistered Syrians to the nearest registration center.

Turkey should also allow all refugee agencies working with Syrians to actively work to identify unregistered Syrians, help them access registration procedures, and raise with the authorities all cases of unregistered Syrians deported to Syria or denied access to health care and education.

To help ensure protection for Syrians in Turkey, the European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should press Turkey to resume registration of all newly arriving Syrians and guarantee their access to health care and education in line with existing policies. If Turkey requires help to resume registration, they should respond generously. They should also press Turkey to allow all agencies working with refugees to freely carry out protection monitoring work throughout Turkey to identify and assist unregistered Syrians and to publicly report on any abuses, including forced return to Syria, and denial of assistance.

Finally, the European Commission should proactively seek information and publicly report on credible accounts of killings, injuries, and mass deportations by Turkish security forces at the Syrian border, including in its regular reports on Turkey’s accession process and the European Agenda on Migration.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
 
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France: Migrant Kids Left to Sleep in the Street

Child protection authorities in Paris are using flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant youths, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to. Hundreds of unaccompanied children sleep on the streets of Paris each night, according to estimates from lawyers and nongovernmental organizations.

(Paris) – Child protection authorities in Paris are using flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant children, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Hundreds of these young migrants find themselves homeless, often condemned to sleep on the streets of Paris.

The 57-page report, “‘Like a Lottery’: Arbitrary Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Paris”, found that arbitrary practices can lead to unaccompanied children being erroneously considered adults, leaving then ineligible for emergency shelter and other protection given to children. Many youths who request protection from the child welfare system are turned away summarily and inaccurately, based on appearance alone. Others are rejected without written decisions after interviews lasting as little as five minutes, contrary to French regulations.
 

“These children have suffered through incredibly difficult and dangerous journeys, only to be deprived of the protection and care they need,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “Deeply flawed procedures mean that children may be arbitrarily turned away at the door of the evaluation office, denied protection after a short interview, or tied up in arduous court procedures and left in limbo for months.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 49 unaccompanied children and reviewed age assessments in an additional 35 cases. Human Rights Watch also spoke with lawyers, health care providers, staff and volunteers of humanitarian agencies and informal associations, and government officials.

Youths who receive full interviews are often denied recognition as children if they lack identity documents, Human Rights Watch found. But international standards and French regulations establish that the primary method of establishing approximate age should be through interviews, recognizing that documents may be lost during arduous journeys.

Even those who have documents are frequently rejected. Child welfare authorities and judges question birth certificates, passports, and other identity documents despite the rule in French law that such documents are presumptively valid unless there are substantiated reasons to believe otherwise.

The review of case files found other invalid grounds for concluding that a person was an adult. Work in the home country or on the journey to Europe was frequently cited, even though millions of children around the world work, including in hazardous or harmful forms of labor. Child protection authorities also often cited the youth’s decision to travel without parents, though many thousands of children travel on their own to Europe each year.

In other cases, examiners told youths from French-speaking countries that they spoke French too well. Imrane O., from Côte d’Ivoire, who gave his age as 15, told Human Rights Watch that his examiner “said that I was answering her questions too well. Because I could answer her questions, I couldn’t be a minor. How is that? I did eight years of schooling, in French. Of course I could answer her questions.”

In the cases studied, child protection authorities also frequently relied on subjective factors such as “bearing” or comportment. Some youths received adverse age assessments based in part on expressing irritation with repeated questioning or presenting their case forcefully, behaviors that can be exhibited at any age. Many more were simply told they had the bearing of an adult, without further explanation.

When children seek review of adverse decisions, some judges regularly order bone tests to determine their age. Medical bodies in France and elsewhere have repeatedly found that bone and other medical examinations are not a reliable means of determining age, particularly for older adolescents, and have called for ending their use.

The cumulative effect of arbitrary decision-making is that age assessments in Paris are “like a lottery: sometimes you win, but most of the time you lose, even if you’re underage,” an aid worker with the nongovernmental organization Utopia 56 told Human Rights Watch.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Paris, as well as in France overall, has increased in recent years. France’s child welfare system took just under 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children into care in 2017. Nearly half of unaccompanied children who seek protection from the child welfare system in France do so in Paris. In February 2018, when Human Rights Watch began this research, an estimated 400 unaccompanied children were “sleeping rough” (outside) in the French capital, , according to estimates from lawyers and nongovernmental organizations. Current estimates are lower.

Ordinary citizens, on their own and in groups, have stepped in to address some of these children’s needs, providing food and other services, organizing football clubs, improvisational theatre, and other activities, and in some cases opening their homes to give children a place to stay for a night or two, or even longer.

But these laudable efforts, along with services provided by nongovernmental groups such as Médécins sans Frontières and Utopia 56, depend on volunteers and cannot meet the need. In contrast, France has both the means and the obligation to provide appropriate care and protection to all children within French territory, regardless of migration status.

French national and departmental authorities should ensure that age assessments are used only when authorities have well-founded doubts about an individual’s claim to be under 18, Human Rights Watch said. In such cases, they should take appropriate steps to determine age and establish eligibility for services, bearing in mind that all age assessments will be estimates. These steps should include interviews by professionals with the expertise to work with children, as international standards recommend.

France also should end the use of bone tests and similar discredited medical examinations.

“Instead of giving youths the benefit of the doubt, as they should, child protection services seem to be doing everything they can to exclude youths from the child care system,” Jeannerod said. “The French authorities should immediately put an end to arbitrary age decisions and provide sufficient resources to take care of and protect unaccompanied migrant children.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(New York) – The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws.

Helal, 10, works as a brick maker at a brick kiln outside Kabul. He told Human Rights Watch that the brick mold is heavy and his hands hurt working with wet clay. Helal doesn’t go to school because he has to work. 

© 2016 Bethany Matta/Human Rights Watch

The 31-page report, “‘They Bear All the Pain’: Hazardous Child Labor in Afghanistan,” documents how child workers work dangerous jobs in Afghanistan’s carpet industry; as bonded labor in brick kilns; and as metal workers. They perform tasks that could result in illness, injury, or even death due to hazardous working conditions and poor enforcement of safety and health standards. Many children who work under those conditions combine the burdens of a job with school, or forego education altogether. Working compels many children in Afghanistan to leave school prematurely. Only half of children involved in child labor attend school. 

“Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.”

Video

Video: Kids at Work, Out of School in Afghanistan

The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws. 

The government has failed to enforce prohibitions against child labor in hazardous industries, and has stalled in its effort to overhaul its labor law to bring it into line with international standards, Human Rights Watch said. Government institutions responsible for enforcing the law often lack the capacity to inspect workplaces, with the result that children working in prohibited jobs go unnoticed and unprotected.

In 2014, the Afghan government published a list of 19 hazardous occupations prohibited for children. These jobs include carpet weaving, metal work, and brick making. While a lack of resources is an important factor in the persistence of child labor in hazardous industries, the Afghan government has also failed to enforce its labor laws through penalties for violators and a strategy to end exploitative labor conditions.

A brick kiln manager in Kabul told Human Rights Watch: “There are children here, starting from 10 years or 8 years of age to 15 or 16… They wake up at 3 in the morning and work until about evening… They complain of pain, but what can they do? The kids are here to make a living. They bear all the pain to do all the work.”

Extreme poverty often drives Afghan children into hazardous labor. Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Landlessness, illiteracy, high unemployment, and continuing armed conflict in much of the country are among the most important factors contributing to chronic poverty and, as a result, child labor.

A 13-year-old metal worker in Kabul said, “My fingers have been cut from the sharp edges of the metal and slammed by the hammer. My finger has also been caught in the trimming-beading machine. When your nail gets hit by a hammer or caught in the machine, it becomes black and eventually falls off.”

Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table. The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.

Phelim Kine

Deputy Director, Asia Division

While work that is appropriate to a child’s age and under healthy and safe conditions can be beneficial to the child’s development and allow them to contribute to their family’s basic needs, work that interferes with a child’s education, or is likely to jeopardize their health or safety, is generally considered “child labor” and is prohibited under international law.

Although pilot projects extending community-based schools to reach vulnerable children have been promising, support for these schools is inadequate to the need. Eradicating child labor in Afghanistan is not feasible so long as extreme poverty continues, but the government and its donors can take steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

Those steps include increasing the number of labor inspectors to adequately cover the entire country; giving priority to monitoring hazardous sectors; and offering the Afghan government targeted technical assistance in devising and implementing policies, standards, and regulations against child labor. Both the government and its foreign donors should devote more resources to expanding educational support to all working children.

The government has a legal obligation under international law to take immediate action to eradicate hazardous child labor. Both Afghanistan and its foreign donors should take urgent steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

“When children are of legal age and work in safe conditions, they can help provide vital livelihood support for many Afghan families,” Kine said. “But the Afghan government has an obligation to enforce the laws that protect children in the workplace, and ensure that they neither have to sacrifice their education or safety as the price for supporting their families.”
 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Zama Neff is the executive director of the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch. She also co-chairs the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Neff has conducted fact-finding investigations and is the author of reports and articles on a range of issues affecting children, including access to education, police violence, refugee protection, the worst forms of child labor, and discrimination against women and girls. She has published on op-ed pages in major international and US publications and speaks regularly to the media. During a sabbatical, she ran a protection monitoring team for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sri Lanka. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1999, Neff clerked for a US federal judge, advocated on behalf of immigrants and refugees in the US, and worked with community development and women's organizations in Honduras. She is a graduate of Davidson College and New York University School of Law.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Protesters holding banners march in Sydney to urge the Australian government to end the refugee crisis on Manus Island on November 4, 2017.

© 2017 PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
Although mounting political pressure has compelled the Australian government to remove most children from Nauru, refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia continue to face significant risks to their physical and mental health.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a powerful speech in October when he said:

"Today, Australia confronts a trauma – an abomination – hiding in plain sight for far too long... Why were the cries of children and parents ignored? Why was our system of justice blind to injustice? Why has it taken so long to act? Why were other things more important than this, the care of innocent children?”

His words were part of an apology to the survivors of child sexual abuse following a Royal Commission into the matter.

Yet today, on Universal Children’s Day, those questions seem equally relevant to the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seeker and refugee children held offshore on the tiny Pacific Island nation of Nauru.

Children on Nauru

Since 2013, Australia has been sending men, women and children who claim asylum and arrive in Australian waters by boat to Nauru. (Men who arrive alone are sent to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea). More than 3,000 people have languished in miserable conditions in closed detention camps on Manus and Nauru.

On both islands, refugees and asylum seekers have reported assaults and harassment by local people. Medical care in both places is grossly inadequate. Many people's mental health has deteriorated dramatically as a result of their forcible transfer and exile to these remote locations: there have been six suicides of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at least 78 of their refugee patients on Nauru have considered or attempted suicide or self-harm. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) found in 2016 that 80 percent of the surveyed population on both islands suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.”

It is hard to fathom how a child as young as 10 could attempt suicide. Yet court documents reveal the physical and mental decline of a 10-year-old boy from Iran on Nauru. His problems were exacerbated following separation from his father, whom authorities transferred to Australia for medical treatment, leaving the boy and his mother on Nauru.

In October 2014, when the boy was six, he threatened to harm himself and had suicidal thoughts. His mental and physical health further deteriorated. In January 2018 he attempted suicide with an overdose of medication. While in the hospital, he attempted to strangle himself with a curtain. Two weeks later, he grabbed a knife, which had to be wrestled from him.

His is not an isolated case. A pre-teenage refugee girl on Nauru attempted suicide last December with an overdose of medication. She continued to express suicidal thoughts and the wish to end her life. Other refugee children on Nauru have been affected by a trauma-related psychological disorder known as traumatic withdrawal syndrome, or resignation syndrome.

International Reaction

United Nations bodies and experts have documented the harms caused by of the Australian Government’s offshore policy. They have called for Australia to close the camps and immediately transfer the people held there to Australia. In February, Australia will come before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, where abuses against children under Australia’s effective control on Nauru are sure to be raised.

But Australia has met this international condemnation with a shrug, shirking responsibility onto its Pacific Island partners. Australia has also sought to justify the measures as “tough but effective” in order to “save lives at sea.” Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded that “Australians were sick of being lectured by the UN.” Yet the cumulative effect of five years of abuse and repeated flouting of international law has irreparably damaged Australia’s reputation as a rights-respecting nation.

Australia’s Obligations

Australia is jointly responsible under international law for safeguarding the human rights of the refugees and asylum seekers it has transferred to Nauru and PNG.  Australia has exercised effective control over the Nauru and PNG offshore operations. This includes ensuring refugees and asylum seekers are protected from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, sexual violence and refoulement (or return to a country where there is a serious risk of persecution or torture). The Australian government is also obligated to respect rights to health, due process, and equality before the law. For children, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the best interests of the child are paramount and children should enjoy the right to education and family unity. On all counts, at various times, the Australian government has failed to uphold these obligations, and the government continually violates international law by penalizing refugees for irregular entry.

In August, humanitarian and human rights groups started a “Kids Off Nauru” campaign. At the time, there were 119 refugee and asylum seeker children on Nauru. The campaign set today as the deadline for the government to remove all children from Nauru. Now, there are 17.

Mounting political pressure worked to force the government to remove the children, but many were only transferred following the commencement of legal proceedings. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has delayed or denied many transfers for months or years, ignoring the recommendations of Australian doctors. It is an extraordinary achievement by medical professionals, lawyers and civil society advocates to have removed more than 100 children. But as children and families leave the island, the situation becomes even more desperate and depressing for the 17 children and hundreds of adults left behind.

And for those leaving the island, all is not well. Transfer from Nauru doesn't mean refugee children and their families will be allowed to settle permanently in Australia or be allowed to move about freely. According to those providing assistance to new arrivals from Nauru, some are being kept under guard in hospitals and motels, separated from family members who may be held in detention or in different states. They all face the threat of being returned to Nauru at some future date. 

Sending asylum seekers offshore doesn’t absolve Australia of its international responsibilities to them. The fact that the Australian government has known about these abuses and has not taken sufficient action to end them indicates a strategy of permitting abuse. One day, an Australian leader will  apologise to refugee children held on Nauru, just as Morrison spoke to survivors of child sexual abuse. Morrison may no longer be the prime minister that day, but he will be held to account for his actions as immigration minister.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

So, all abortion is banned in the Dominican Republic?

Yes. Even in instances where a woman or girl is pregnant from rape or incest, if her life is in danger, or if the fetus won’t survive outside the womb. But the ban, in effect since 1884, doesn’t stop abortions — it just forces women to have clandestine abortions.

Women who have money and information can travel abroad or find safe clandestine providers. But if you’re from a rural area, you’re young or poor, or you don’t have information on abortion or people to help, you’re likely to turn to less safe methods.

And women die from unsafe abortions. Around eight percent of maternal deaths in the country are attributed to complications from abortion or miscarriage, but it’s likely higher.

What are these less safe methods?

Clandestine abortion has become safer because there is now medication to induce abortion. A lot of women and girls take misoprostol, which is used to induce labor and treat stomach ulcers. Many still turn to more locally traditional methods to end pregnancy, though – herbs, teas, and beverages that can carry risks and lead to life-threatening complications. Some pregnant women try to harm their health in hopes of causing miscarriage, depriving themselves of rest, water, or food. Some take medication like sleeping pills that are harmful to pregnancy. One woman I spoke with beat her stomach with a concrete block.

What complications arise when women do this?

They can experience heavy bleeding and intense pain. Sometimes the pregnancy ends, but there’s still tissue in the uterus. If the tissue isn’t removed it can lead to severe infections or even death.

Why are women so desperate that they resort to this?

If a woman doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy, it’s for a reason. Most women I spoke with wanted an abortion because of economic difficulties. Maybe they or their partner weren’t working. Some couldn’t afford to care for another child. Some had a violent or abusive partner, or the relationship wasn’t stable. When women or girls become pregnant from rape, when a pregnancy endangers their health, or if the fetus won’t survive outside the womb, being forced to continue a pregnancy can feel like torture.  

I interviewed a health educator at a clinic who, a few days earlier, spoke with an 11-year-old girl who was pregnant because her stepfather raped her. She had no idea what had happened to her, and there was nothing the provider could do but refer her to pre-natal care.

This is what banning abortion looks like.

Video

Dominican Republic: What happens when abortion is totally banned?

The Dominican Republic’s total ban on abortion threatens women's health and lives and violates their rights. Abortion is illegal in the Dominican Republic in all circumstances, even when a pregnancy is life-threatening, unviable, or the result of rape. 

I’m assuming doctors could be imprisoned for performing an abortion?

Yes, up to 20 years for providers who perform abortions and up to 2 years for women who have abortions. That said, the Dominican Republic isn’t like El Salvador, where more than two dozen women alleged to have had abortions are in prison for manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide. Arrests and prosecutions in the Dominican Republic are rare. But the law creates fear and drives the whole process underground, keeping it less safe.

It also stops doctors from acting in the best interest of their patients. Some doctors do perform abortions secretly to help their patients, but at great risk to them and their careers. Imagine looking these women in the eye and saying, “You could die from this pregnancy but I can’t help you.”

Which women that you spoke with stood out to you?

There were so many. One was a young professional. She was educated, lived in a city, had a good income. But her contraception failed. When she learned she was pregnant she thought, “My life is over.” She talked to a friend of a friend who went to a secret abortion clinic, and she went there too. The clinic was filthy, she said, with no running water or sheets on the bed. Afterward the provider told her to get a heavy course of antibiotics and a tetanus shot, which tells you something about the conditions.

Thankfully she didn’t develop any infections. While she has no regrets about her decision, she said, “I could have died.” Today, she’s an activist for making abortion safe and legal.

Many women and girls I interviewed attempted abortion alone or only with one other person. It’s a lonely process. They made a quiet decision, found some pills at a pharmacy, took them with the tea. Then they’d wait. And if the pain or bleeding became too much they planned to seek care at a health center.

How are women treated at health centers?

Some women are so scared of mistreatment, or of being reported to authorities, that they don’t seek treatment. Those who do are often left waiting for a long time, or not given any pain relief if doctors need to remove tissue from their uterus—seemingly as “punishment” for ending a pregnancy. Sometimes, the staff threaten the women, calling them horrible names, like “murderer.” Some who went to health centers after miscarriages said they were treated poorly because staff suspected they had induced an abortion.

I spoke with one woman from a rural area who already had four kids, and knew she couldn’t have another. She drank a tea — a home remedy – and had a lot of pain, but not a lot of bleeding. She knew something had gone wrong, so she went to a health center. The doctor didn’t even examine her, or give her pain medication, just gave her misoprostol to remove tissue from the uterus and sent her away. She felt judged and neglected. So she takes the medication, has intense pain, but doesn’t want to go back, so she suffers through it alone.

Weeks later she’s still in pain, and when she gets checked out is told she has an infection. When I spoke with her, she’d been in pain for months.

What surprised you during your research?

How openly women and girls were willing to speak with me about abortion even though it’s illegal. As one long-time advocate explained, women in the Dominican Republic have always defied the abortion law and ended pregnancies that they couldn’t continue.

Can you easily access birth control in the Dominican Republic?

Everyone we interviewed had at least some information about contraceptives. The public health system offers a range of options which are either free or low cost. But sometimes they’d go for their injection or a refill and the hospital didn’t have it. Some women say birth control makes them sick, or causes their bodies to change, so they stop.

Sometimes, contraception fails. We spoke with one woman who learned she was pregnant at 17, three months before finishing high school, even though she was using injections to prevent pregnancy. She considered an abortion but was scared. When her private school’s director found out, she was kicked out. The director told her she couldn’t be pregnant in school.

Getting kicked out of school is a particular consequence for girls. Are there other ways that girls are affected differently than women?

First, adolescent girls have less access to information about sexual and reproductive health than adults. Girls often find out they are pregnant later because they don’t know the signs. At that point, it’s risky or impossible to have a clandestine abortion. But because having a baby is more likely to derail their plans – they could get kicked out of school or be pressured into marriage – they’re actually more likely to try riskier abortion methods. We found their experiences so compelling that we’re doing a separate report based on their accounts.

What do you want to happen?

The government should decriminalize abortion.

The Dominican Republic has been in the process of reforming its penal code for more than two decades. One of the contentious issues has been the articles dealing with abortion. Some members of Congress and the president support abortion in cases of rape or incest, when the mother’s life is in danger, or when the fetus won’t survive. But Congress hasn’t enacted this. The president twice vetoed versions of the penal code were sent to him without these changes.

There is a really vibrant civil society effort to legalize abortion in these instances. A huge coalition of groups came together and had a big march in July, filling the streets. At the end of October they delivered a petition, signed by 10,000 people, urging Congress to decriminalize abortion. One advocate I spoke with said, “I’m 63 and I’ve been doing this fight for more than 40 years, and I want them to know, I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to back down.” And that’s really inspiring.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The Dominican Republic’s total ban on abortion threatens women's health and lives and violates their rights. Abortion is illegal in the Dominican Republic in all circumstances, even when a pregnancy is life-threatening, unviable, or the result of rape. Women and girls facing unwanted pregnancies have clandestine abortions, often at great risk to their health and lives. Many experience health complications from unsafe abortions, and some die. Some women and girls face abuse, neglect, or mistreatment by healthcare providers. The ban does not stop abortion but drives it underground and makes it less safe. As a starting place toward meeting the country’s human rights obligations, Congress should decriminalize abortion in three circumstances, Human Rights Watch said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Two students at a free non-government school for poor children in the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. The school provides a few hours of classes per day to children who otherwise have no access to education.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018
Pakistan’s new government has promised to fix one of the country’s biggest conundrums—how to get more girls into school. The UK—which gives more aid to Pakistan than any other country, much of it for education—should both push and help Imran Khan’s government to keep that promise.

Pakistan is facing an education crisis, especially for girls. More than 22 million of Pakistan’s children are out of school, most of them girls. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls do not attend school, compared with 21 percent of boys. By ninth grade, when children are about age 14, just 13 percent of girls are still in education.

A new Human Rights Watch report cites the government’s under-investment in education, corruption, lack of schools, prohibitive school fees and other education costs, corporal punishment, and a failure to enforce compulsory education as the main culprits. Human Rights Watch also found that education, both in government and low-cost private schools, is often of a poor quality.

Girls also face additional hurdles from Pakistan’s patriarchal society and gender discrimination, child marriage and sexual harassment all make it harder for girls to get an education. Insecurity doesn’t help either. In the past five years, there have been hundreds of attacks on schools, teachers and students, giving already-reluctant parents yet more reasons to keep girls home.

Imran Khan was elected prime minister in July 2018. A relative newcomer to politics, he was supported by many young Pakistanis looking for change and a tough new approach to ending corruption.

He made big promises. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreef i-Insaf political party manifesto pledges reform in virtually every area of government, from tackling climate change to boosting tourism. Among those promises are ones crucial to Pakistan’s girls and women, including what it claims is “the most ambitious education agenda in Pakistan’s history”, spanning reform of and investment in the entire education sector.

The UK prides itself on supporting the rights of women and girls. From the 2014 Girl Summit on child marriage, to William Hague and Angelina Jolie’s initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict, to the 2018 endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration, to Boris Johnson’s pledge to prioritize girls’ education, the UK government has sought to be a leader in this field.

Pakistan receives more UK aid money than any other country, and the UK is Pakistan’s second largest bilateral donor, after the US. DFID’s planned aid budget for Pakistan this year is £325 million, and two of DFID’s three largest programmes in Pakistan are education projects, with a total budget of over £108 million. “Investing in girls and women is transformational – for their family, their community, and for the country”, DFID writes, describing its support for girls’ education in Punjab province, and noting that each extra year of schooling raises women’s wages by up to 20 per cent.

All true. And all reasons why the most important thing the UK can do for Pakistani girls is to push—and help—Khan to keep his promises to them. Pakistan’s education crisis results from decades of underinvestment and mismanagement. The government has consistently invested far less in education than is recommended by international standards. As of 2017, Pakistan was spending less than 2.8 percent of its gross domestic product on education—far below the recommended 4 to 6 percent—leaving the sector severely under-funded. Government schools are in such short supply that even in Pakistan’s major cities, many children cannot safely reach a school on foot in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas. And there are many more schools for boys than for girls.

Khan’s government can fix this, but many other issues are competing for its attention. The country is in an economic free fall, forcing Khan to desperately seek financial backing. Protests over a recent blasphemy ruling have rocked the country. Security issues are a perennial obsession.

Achieving the nation-wide sweeping reforms Pakistan desperately needs will be difficult and demands resources. There is a high risk these efforts will fall by the wayside.

The UK has an important role to play. Funding education projects is crucial. But so is speaking up for education reform at the highest political levels and insisting that Pakistan’s government be a full partner in the effort to educate its girls—and boys. The UK government should call on Pakistan to boost education spending to at least 4 percent of GDP, provide equal numbers of schools for girls and boys, and ensure that every child has access to—and attends—school.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

She opened the school around 2014 in a room in her grandmother’s home. At first, Shazia only had three students, but she went door-to-door recruiting more children, telling parents about the school and encouraging kids to attend. She makes a special effort to recruit girls, who are less likely than their brothers to be in school. It wasn’t easy – many  parents didn’t understand the importance of education, especially for daughters. But the students came, and now around 50 children ages 6 to 17 attend her school, and Shazia has two additional volunteers helping out.

“Every child should acquire an education,” she says.

Yet in Pakistan, nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. The situation is dire for Pakistan’s girls, only 13 percent of whom make it to ninth grade, according to a new Human Rights Watch report, “‘Shall I Feed My Daughter, or Educate Her’: Barriers to Girls’ Education in Pakistan.” One reason is that families simply cannot afford education. While government schools are free, there are too few of them – and families must still pay for uniforms, school supplies, and exam fees. Private schools are too expensive for many poor families. Both government and low-cost private schools sometimes offer poor quality education, leaving people skeptical of school’s benefits.

As ever more poor children grow up illiterate in Pakistan, people like Shazia are taking action in their communities, improvising, teaching children, and trying to bridge the gap between what the government provides and what kids need.

Shazia is young, only 23, and dresses like other women in the area, with a colorful scarf worn loosely around her head and shoulders. She speaks with poise and confidence, and is clearly a force when it comes to realizing her vision.

Video

Video: Girls Deprived of Education in Pakistan

More than 22 million children in Pakistan are out of school, and the majority of them are girls. The Pakistan government should do more to provide all children with access to education.

Her own family was poor – her mother passed away when she was only 4 or 5 but her father saw to it that she received a good education. She grew up in Lyari, but at that time, the neighborhood was safe and she and the other kids played in the streets. This changed by the time she was old enough to take her high school exams. “We used to be really scared that [someone] might start firing over here any minute or a bomb could land here anytime.”

Also, the schools weren’t good. As they still do today, people sometimes obtained teaching contracts through corruption, keeping the salary without showing up. Regularly without a teacher, Shazia would often teach herself her lessons.

In her school, Shazia teaches Urdu, English, and math, and the kids read poetry. But before starting lessons, she plays indoor games with the children and teaches them soccer and boxing. Otherwise, the children would never come back, she says. Once they like coming to the school, the academic lessons begin.

Many of her students have never been to school. “We have a lot of girls, especially girls who cannot read anything. They cannot even read their own names,” she says. The gang violence, which peaked in 2015 but has since been quelled, interrupted the education of some of her kids. Older children who haven’t attended schools are told they are too old to enroll in government schools – hers is possibly their only option. 

A mother takes her daughter to school in Islamabad. government schools generally offer free tuition, but parents and students are still obliged to pay for uniforms, school supplies, and exams fees. These costs put education out of reach for many poor families.

© REUTERS/Sara Farid, February 2014

But it’s not easy convincing parents to let their children take classes. Many parents never went to school, Shazia says, and expect children to work, selling merchandise or food on the street or doing work like sewing or embroidery at home. Girls are often also responsible for household work and fetching water. Some girls who come to Shazia’s school have to look after their younger siblings while their mom works. “Girls leaving their house is thought of as something really wrong,” she said.

But these challenges don’t stop Shazia. She tells parents that their children need a place to go while they work, otherwise they could get in trouble. A few parents still refuse. But some of the children come despite this, because they want to and no one is home to stop them. Ten or 15 children study with her in the evening after working all day.

Shazia admits the children can be difficult. It’s hard to control them as they’re not used to adults telling them what to do, and some act out because of problems at home. At first, Shazia was very gentle, but they didn’t listen to her. Over time, she learned that by being stricter – for example, telling the kids that if they didn’t listen, she won’t let them play games – the children began to listen to her. No adult at her school is ever allowed to hit children.

Students at Behar colony government Secondary School for girls in the lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Because the kids don’t have backpacks or books, Shazia often buys supplies with her own money. Her school is also supported by local nongovernmental organizations, like Arado Pakistan, which has donated furniture and paper. “It’s very difficult to keep this school running, but it is also not impossible.”

She’s extremely grateful to her family – they allowed her to quit a paying job to work for free for the betterment of her community – and to her grandmother specifically, who let her start the school in her home.

She hopes her school is a haven for all students, and especially for girls, who make up 70  percent of her students. She says most people in her community don’t believe girls can or should work at an office or get a job outside of the country like boys can. She disagrees. “If we want to change this mind set now, we’d have to change ourselves,” she says, believing parents of girls should give them “encouragement and convince them to go further.”

Her goal is not just to teach her students how to read and write, but how to be good human beings. “Who knows what they’ll do when they grow up?” she says. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

If we don’t get education, our nation won’t progress.
—Rabiya, 23, single mother of a daughter, Karachi, July 2017.

Pakistan was described as “among the world’s worst performing countries in education,” at the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development. The new government, elected in July 2018, stated in their manifesto that nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. Girls are particularly affected. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys. By grade six, 59 percent of girls are out of school, versus 49 percent of boys. Only 13 percent of girls are still in school by ninth grade. Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected.

Political instability, disproportionate influence on governance by security forces, repression of civil society and the media, violent insurgency, and escalating ethnic and religious tensions all poison Pakistan’s current social landscape. These forces distract from the government’s obligation to deliver essential services like education—and girls lose out the most.

There are high numbers of out-of-school children, and significant gender disparities in education, across the entire country, but some areas are much worse than others. In Balochistan, the province with the lowest percentage of educated women, as of 2014-15, 81 percent of women had not completed primary school, compared to 52 percent of men. Seventy-five percent of women had never attended school at all, compared to 40 percent of men. According to this data, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had higher rates of education but similarly huge gender disparities. Sindh and Punjab had higher rates of education and somewhat lower gender disparities, but the gender disparities were still 14 to 21 percent.

Across all provinces generation after generation of children, especially girls, are locked out of education—and into poverty. In interviews for this report, girls talked again and again about their desire for education, their wish to “be someone,” and how these dreams had been crushed by being unable to study.

Lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan. The country has one of Asia’s highest rates of maternal mortality. Violence against women and girls—including rape, so-called “honor” killings and violence, acid attacks, domestic violence, forced marriage and child marriage—is a serious problem, and government responses are inadequate. Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 honor killings every year. Twenty-one percent of females marry as children.

Pakistan’s education system has changed significantly in recent years, responding to an abdication by the government of responsibility to provide, through government schools, an adequate standard of education, compulsory and free of charge, to all children. There has been an explosion of new private schools, largely unregulated, of wildly varying quality. A lack of access to government schools for many poor people has created a booming market for low-cost private schools, which in many areas are the only form of education available to poor families. While attempting to fill a critical gap, these schools may be compromised by poorly qualified and badly paid teachers, idiosyncratic curricula, and a lack of government quality assurance and oversight.

Girls attend lessons at a school on the outskirts of Islamabad. Poor facilities at many schools make it difficult for children to study, with a lack of safe and adequate toilets particularly affecting girls who have commenced menstruation.

© 2013 Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Secondly, there has been a massive increase in the provision of religious education, ranging from formal madrasas to informal arrangements where children study the Quran in the house of a neighbor. Religious schools are often the only type of education available to poor families. They are not, however, an adequate replacement, as they generally do not teach non-religious subjects.

Pakistan’s highly decentralized structure of government means that many decisions regarding education policy are made at the subnational level. The result is a separate planning process in every province, on a different timeline, with varying approaches, levels of effectiveness and commitment to improving access to education for girls. This leads to major differences from one province to the next, including on such basic issues as whether children are charged fees to attend government schools, and how much teachers are paid.

In every province, however, there is a serious gender disparity, a high percentage of both boys and girls who are out of school, and clear flaws in the government’s approach to education.

Video

Video: Girls Deprived of Education in Pakistan

More than 22 million children in Pakistan are out of school, and the majority of them are girls. The Pakistan government should do more to provide all children with access to education.

Barriers to Girls’ Education Within the School System

Many of the barriers to girls’ education are within the school system itself. The Pakistan government simply has not established an education system adequate to meet the needs of the country’s children, especially girls. While handing off responsibility to private school operators and religious schools might seem like a solution, nothing can absolve the state of its obligation, under international and domestic law, to ensure that all children receive a decent education—something that simply is not happening in Pakistan today. Moreover, despite all the barriers, many people interviewed for this report described a growing demand for girls’ education, including in marginalized communities.

Students walk to school in Behar colony of Karachi. A shortage of government schools, especially for girls, leaves many girls walking long distances to school during which they often face sexual harassment. Shortage of schools or sexual harassment may lead to girls being shut out or dropping out of education entirely.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Lack of Investment

The government does not adequately invest in schools. Pakistan spends far less on education than is recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its guidance on education. Many professionals working in the education sector described a situation in which the government seemed disinterested, and government disengagement on education is evident from the national level to the provincial and local levels.

One result is that there are not enough government schools for all children to have access to one. Government schools are in such short supply that even in Pakistan’s major cities many children cannot reach a school on foot safely and in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas, where schools are even more scarce, and it is less likely that private schools will fill the gap. Families that can access a government school often find that it is overcrowded.

An “upward bottleneck” exists as children, especially girls, get older. Secondary schools are in shorter supply than primary schools, and colleges are even more scarce, especially for girls. Schools are more likely to be gender segregated as children get older, and there are fewer schools for girls than for boys. Many girls are pushed out of continuing studies because they finish at one school and cannot access the next grade level.

Students check the attendance register at Behar colony government Secondary School for girls in the lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

High Cost of Education

Poor families struggle to meet the costs of sending their children to school. Government schools are generally more affordable than private education, but they sometimes charge tuition, registration or exam fees, and they almost always require that students’ families foot the bill for associated costs. These include stationery, copies, uniforms, school bags, and shoes. Text books are sometimes provided for free at government schools, but sometimes families must pay for these as well.

The many poor families who cannot access a government school are left with options outside the government school system. The range of private schools, informal tuition centers, nongovernmental organization (NGO) schools, and madrasas creates a complex maze for parents and children to navigate. Many girls experience several—or all—of these forms of study without gaining any educational qualifications.

Poor Quality of Education

Many families expressed frustration about the quality of education available to them. Some said it was so poor that there was no point sending children to school. In government schools, parents and students complained of teachers not showing up, overcrowding, and poor facilities. At private schools, particularly low-cost private schools, concerns related to teachers being badly educated and unqualified, and the instruction being patchy and unregulated. Teachers in both government and private schools pressure parents to pay for out-of-school tutoring, an additional expense. In both government and private schools, use of corporal punishment and abusive behavior by teachers was widely reported.

Students at Behar colony government Secondary School for girls in the lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. Only 13 percent of girls in Pakistan are still in school by ninth grade. While there is an overall shortage of schools for girls, the shortage becomes worse as girls progress beyond primary school.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

No Enforcement of Compulsory Education

One reason so many children in Pakistan do not go to school is that there is no enforced government expectation that children should study. Pakistan’s constitution states, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” However, there is no organized effort by government in any province to ensure that all children study. When children are not sent to school, no government official reaches out to the family to encourage or require that the child study. When a child drops out of school, individual teachers sometimes encourage the child to continue studying, but there is no systematic government effort to enroll or retain children in school. This violates international standards Pakistan has signed up to which require that education be free and compulsory at least through primary school.

Corruption

Corruption is a major issue in the government school system and exists in several forms. One of the most pervasive is nepotism or bribery in the recruitment of teachers and principals. Some people simply purchase teaching positions, and others obtain their jobs through political connections. When people obtain teaching positions illicitly, they may not be qualified or motivated to teach, and they may not be expected to. Especially in rural areas, some schools sit empty because corruption has redirected the teacher’s salary to someone who does not teach, according to education experts.

Barriers to Girls’ Education Outside the School System

Aside from the barriers to education within the school system, girls also face barriers in their homes and in the community. These include poverty, child labor, gender discrimination and harmful social norms, and insecurity and dangers on the way to school.

Poverty

For many parents, the most fundamental barrier to sending their children to school is poverty. Even relatively low associated costs can put education out of reach for poor families, and there are many poor families in Pakistan. In 2016, the government determined that about 60 million Pakistanis—6.8 to 7.6 million families—were living in poverty, about 29.5 percent of the country’s population.

Many children, including girls, are out of school because they are working. Sometimes they are engaged in paid work, which for girls often consists of home-based industries, such as sewing, embroidery, beading, or assembling items. Other children—almost always girls—are kept home to do housework in the family home or are employed as domestic workers.

Social Norms

Some families do not believe that girls should be educated or believe girls should not study beyond a certain age. Attitudes regarding girls’ education vary significantly across different communities. In some areas, families violating cultural norms prohibiting girls from studying can face pressure and hostility. When families violate norms against girls’ education, the girls themselves may face harmful consequences. Many people, however, described growing acceptance of the value of girls’ education, even in conservative communities; the government should be encouraging this change.

Students at Behar colony government Secondary School for girls in the lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Girls are often removed from school as they approach puberty, sometimes because families fear them engaging in romantic relationships. Other families fear older girls will face sexual harassment at school and on the way there and back.

Harmful gender norms create economic incentives to prioritize boys’ education. Daughters normally go to live with, and contribute to, their husband’s family, while sons are expected to remain with their parents—so sending sons to school is seen as a better investment in the family’s economic future.

Child marriage is both a consequence and a cause of girls not attending school. In Pakistan, 21 percent of girls marry before age 18, and 3 percent marry before age 15. Girls are sometimes seen as ready for marriage as soon as they reach puberty, and in some communities, child marriage is expected. Some families are driven to marry off their daughters by poverty, and others see child marriage as a way of preempting any risk of girls engaging in romantic relationships outside marriage. Staying in school helps girls delay marriage, and girls often are forced to leave school as soon as they marry or even become engaged.

Insecurity

Many families and girls cited security as a barrier to girls studying. They described many types of insecurity, including sexual harassment, kidnapping, crime, conflict, and attacks on education. Some families said insecurity in their communities worsened in recent years, meaning younger children have less access to education than older siblings.

Families worry about busy roads; the large distance many girls must travel to school increases risks and fears. Many girls experienced sexual harassment on the way to school, and police demonstrate little willingness to help prevent harassment. Girls sometimes hesitate to complain about harassment out of fear they will be blamed, or their parents’ solution will be to take them out of school.

Laiba, age eight, with Shazia, the founder of the lyari School. The lyari School is a free school in Karachi, Pakistan providing classes for local children who otherwise have no access to education. activists and community groups have created such informal schools in a number of areas without access to government schools.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Girls and families also fear kidnapping, another fear exacerbated by long journeys to school. This fear is heightened when girls are older and seen as being at greater risk of sexual assault. Attacks on education are disturbingly common in Pakistan. When violence happens in a school or in a neighborhood, it has long term consequences for girls’ education. Families across different parts of the country described incidents of violence in their communities that kept girls out of school for many years afterwards.

Armed Conflict and Targeted Attacks on Schools

Many parts of Pakistan face escalating levels of violence related to insurgency, and ethnic and religious conflict. This is having a devastating impact on girls’ access to education, and ethnic conflict often spills into schools.

One of the features of conflict in Pakistan has been targeted attacks against students, teachers, and schools. The most devastating attack on education in recent years in Pakistan was the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar city, where militants killed 145 people, almost all of them children. This attack was far from isolated, however. Between 2013 and 2017, hundreds of schools were attacked, typically with explosive devices, killing several hundred students and teachers, and damaging and destroying infrastructure. One-third of these attacks specifically targeted girls and women, aiming to interrupt their studies.

Pakistan can, and should, fix its school system. The government should invest more resources in education and use those resources to address gender disparities and to ensure that all children—boys and girls—have access to, and attend, high quality primary and secondary education. The future of the country depends on it.

 

Key Recommendations

To the Federal Government of Pakistan

  • Increase expenditure on education in line with UNESCO recommended levels needed to fulfill obligations related to the right to education.
  • Strengthen oversight of provincial education systems’ progress toward achieving parity between girls and boys and universal primary and secondary education for all children, by requiring provinces provide accurate data on girls’ education, monitoring enrolment and attendance by girls, and setting targets in each province.
  • Strengthen the federal government’s role in assisting provincial governments in provision of education, with the goal of ending gender disparities in all provinces.
  • Work with provincial governments to improve the quality of government schools and quality assurance of private schools.
  • Raise the national minimum age of marriage to 18 with no exceptions and develop and implement a national action plan to end child marriage, with the goal of ending all child marriage by 2030, as per Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3.
  • Endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political agreement to protect schools, teachers, and students during armed conflict.

To Provincial Governments

  • Direct the provincial education authority to make girls’ education a priority within the education budget, in regard to construction and rehabilitation of schools, training and recruitment of female teachers, and provision of supplies, to address the imbalance between the participation of girls and boys in education.
  • Strengthen enforcement of anti-child labour laws.
  • Instruct police officials to work with schools to ensure the safety of students, including monitoring potential threats to students, teachers and schools, and working to prevent harassment of students, especially girls.
  • Ensure that anyone encountering corruption by government education officials has access to effective and responsive complaint mechanisms.

To Provincial Education Authorities

  • Rehabilitate, build, and establish new schools, especially co-ed and girls’ schools.
  • Until government schools are available, provide scholarships to good-quality private schools for girls living far from government schools.
  • Provide free or affordable transport for students who travel long distances or through difficult environments to get to a government school.
  • Abolish all tuition, registration, and exam fees at government schools.
  • Provide poor students with all needed items including school supplies, uniforms, bags, shoes, and textbooks.
  • Instruct all principals to identify out-of-school children in their catchment areas and work with families to get them into school.
  • Explore options for increasing attendance by girls from poor families through scholarships, food distribution, or meal programs at girls’ schools.
  • When children quit school or fail to attend, ensure all schools reach out to determine the reasons and re-engage the student in school.
  • Require each school to develop and implement a security plan with attention to concerns of girls including sexual harassment.
  • Develop a plan to expand access to middle and high school for girls through the government education system, including establishment of new schools.
  • Strengthen the system for monitoring and quality assurance of all schools, not only for government schools but also private schools and madrasas.
  • Prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in schools; take appropriate disciplinary action against any employee violating this rule.
  • Ensure that all schools have adequate boundary walls, safe and private toilets with hygiene facilities, and access to safe drinking water.

 

Methodology

This report is primarily based on research conducted in Pakistan in 2017 and 2018. Human Rights Watch researchers carried out a total of 209 individual and group interviews, mainly in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta.

Most of the interviewees—a total of 119—were girls and young women who either had missed all of their primary and secondary education or had started some education but were unable to continue and dropped out. We also interviewed 60 parents and other family members of children who either had not attended school or had dropped out.

In addition, we interviewed 12 teachers, and four school principals. An additional 18 interviews were with education experts, activists and community workers, or local officials.

Interviews with children and families were usually conducted in their homes, or at the home of a neighbor. Some interviews were conducted in the offices of community-based organizations or at schools. Whenever possible, interviews were conducted privately with only the interviewee, a Human Rights Watch researcher, and, where necessary, an interpreter present. Interviews were conducted in Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki, Brahui, and, with some experts and educators, in English. In a few cases, interviews were conducted through double translation. Some interviews with experts were conducted by phone or in person outside of Pakistan.

Laiba, age eight, a student at the lyari School. laiba’s older sister is not able to study at all because she is responsible for housework and caring for her younger siblings.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

All interviewees were advised of the purpose of the research and how the information would be used. We explained the voluntary nature of the interview and that they could refuse to be interviewed, refuse to answer any question, and terminate the interview at any point. Interviewees did not receive any compensation. The names of children and family members have been changed to pseudonyms to protect their privacy. The names of other interviewees have sometimes been withheld at their request.

We selected research sites in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta with the goal of getting a sample of different experiences of out-of-school children and their families, including in urban environments. We made an effort to include families who migrated to the city from rural areas, and refugee families. We also conducted interviews in some rural areas, but the research was primarily in urban areas. Security challenges affected our choice of research sites.

In this report, the terms “child” and “children” are used to refer to anyone under the age of 18, consistent with usage under international law.

At the time of the research for this report, the exchange rate was approximately 105 Pakistani rupees=US$1. We have used this rate for conversions in the text.

 

I.  Background

Pakistan was described as “among the world’s worst performing countries in education,” at the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development.[1] The new government, elected in July 2018, stated in their manifesto that nearly 22.5 million children are out of school.[2] Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, versus 21 percent of boys in that age group.[3] This represents a total of almost 5 million children of primary school age who are not in school, 62 percent of them girls.[4]

As children reach middle school level—sixth grade, when children would typically be about age 10 or 11—the total number of out of school children increases, and the gender disparity persists. In 2016, 59 percent of middle school girls were out of school versus 49 percent of boys.[5] According to 2013-2014 data, by ninth grade, only 13 percent of girls are still in school.[6]

Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected, especially poor girls. Among the poorest students, only 30 percent of boys finish primary school, and only 16 percent of girls.[7] By lower secondary school, the numbers of the poorest children completing their studies is even more unequal: 18 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls.[8] Only one percent of the poorest girls finish upper secondary school, compared with 6 percent of the poorest boys.[9]

Political instability, disproportionate influence on governance by security forces, repression of civil society and the media, violent insurgency, and escalating ethnic and religious tensions all poison Pakistan’s current social landscape. These forces distract from the government’s obligation to deliver essential services like education—and girls lose out the most.[10]

There are high numbers of out-of-school children, and significant gender disparities in education, across the entire country, but some areas are much worse than others. As of 2014-2015, which is the most recent published data, the percentage of people who had ever attended school was:

Balochistan:                  25 percent of women, 60 percent of men

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:   36 percent of women, 74 percent of men

Sindh:                           50 percent of women, 71 percent of men

Punjab:                         56 percent of women, 74 percent of men

 

Similar gender and regional disparities existed among those who completed primary school:

Balochistan:                  19 percent of women, 48 percent of men

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 28 percent of women, 59 percent of men

Sindh:                           43 percent of women; 62 percent of men

Punjab:                         47 percent of women; 61 percent of men[11]

Across all provinces, generation after generation of children, especially girls, are locked out of education—and into poverty. In interviews for this report, girls talked again and again about their desire for education, their wish to “be someone,” and the ways in which these dreams had been crushed by being unable to study.

Lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan. The country has one of Asia’s highest rates of maternal mortality.[12] Violence against women and girls—including rape, so-called “honor” killings and violence, acid attacks, domestic violence, forced marriage and child marriage—is a serious problem, and government responses are inadequate.[13] Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 honor killings every year.

One particularly concerning theme in some interviews for this report was numerous families in which children were less educated than their parents, or younger siblings were less educated than older siblings. Some families were unrooted by poverty or insecurity in ways that blocked children from studying. Some encountered financial difficulties that made it impossible for children to reach the educational level their parents had achieved. In some communities, schools had closed, or the route to school had become more unsafe. In a few families, views hostile to girls’ education had hardened over time.[14]

A girl studying at the lyari school.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Pakistan’s education system has changed significantly in recent years, responding to an abdication by the government of responsibility to provide, through government schools, an adequate standard of education, compulsory and free of charge, to all children. There has been an explosion of new private schools, largely unregulated, of wildly varying quality. The number of private schools increased by 69 percent during the period from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008 alone, a period during which the number of government schools increased by only 8 percent.[15] This increased the private schools’ share of total student enrollment to 34 percent.[16] The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation has 197,000 member schools.[17]

There has also been a massive increase in the number of programs offering religious education, ranging from formal madrasas to informal arrangements where children study the Quran in the house of a neighbor. Because many religious schools are informal, it is difficult to estimate how many exist, but commentators agree that the number has risen sharply over recent decades.[18]

A variety of nonprofit schools also exist in Pakistan, though there are far too few to meet the needs of the many families struggling to access education. They range from tiny informal arrangements, such as individuals tutoring a few children in their home for free, to “informal schools” some of which are funded by international donors, to organizations like the Citizens Foundation which boasts over 200,000 students.[19] The Citizens Foundation charges low fees—175 rupees per month (US$1.67).[20]

Some nonprofit private schools are only for girls.[21] Others are based in particularly marginalized communities including, for example, schools located in areas with many Afghan immigrants or in fishing communities.[22]

The lines between nonprofit schools and private tuition can be blurred, with some informal schools representing a mix of philanthropy and business, with some teachers charging students who can pay and letting the poorest children attend for free.[23] Tuition teachers sometimes aim to transition their students into a government school but face the same barriers—usually distance and cost—that kept the students out of school in the first place.[24]

In addition to schools run as charities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also sometimes help other schools, for example by providing books to schools in poor areas.[25] The demand for assistance is far greater than the supply. Many families said they had sought assistance from charities to educate their children but were unable to find help.[26]

The area outside the classroom at the lyari School, a free nongovernment school in Karachi, Pakistan serving children who otherwise do not have access to education.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Research on educational outcomes for different types of educational institutions suggests that when you control for the differences in intake characteristics of students between government and private schools, their outcomes are in terms of testing achievement are similar.[27] On the other hand, outcomes for children who studied only at madrasas were considerably worse.[28]

Pakistan’s highly decentralized structure of government means that decisions regarding education policy are mostly made at the subnational level, consisting of four provinces (Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh), the capital area containing Islamabad, and the federally-administered tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, and the administrative entities of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Every province has a separate planning process, on a different timeline, with varying approaches and levels of effectiveness and commitment to improving access to education for girls.[29] The result is that education policies and practices vary significantly from one part of the country to the next, including on such basic issues as whether children are charged fees to attend government schools, and how much teachers are paid.

Despite all the barriers, many people interviewed for this report described a growing demand for girls’ education, including in marginalized communities. Aziza, 45, lives in a fishing community on the fringes of Karachi. She never studied; all her five children attended at least a few years of school, though none went beyond primary education. “Now it reflects well on the parent when a child is able to do well for themselves,” Aziza said. “Back then in this area we had no experience of educated people, but now we do. So, everyone is interested now in getting an education.”[30]

Some experts pointed to growing acceptance that girls should study. A school headmaster cited four reasons for this: 1) a desire by boys and men to marry educated brides; 2) growing availability of education as a result of the spread of private schools; 3) efforts by the government to push people away from studying in madrasas and toward mainstream education; and 4) a growing belief by families that educated women better contribute to their families, even if their role is only inside the home.[31]

Bushra, second from the right, a 10th grader at Behar colony government Secondary School for girls, at home with her family. Bushra’s mother, far left, never studied; she married at age 14. like an increasing number of parents who also did not have the chance to attend school, she sees the value of education, including for girls, and hopes for a better life for her daughters.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Alima is sending her 20-year-old daughter to college, where she is in 11th grade, even though the family struggles to survive on the money Alima earns as a seamstress and her husband as a fruit seller. [32]  Alima’s two older children, both sons, left school in ninth and 10th grades to work as weavers to help meet the family’s rent. “Because she’s the last child we put in all this effort for her,” Alima said. “If it was up to me, I would put the same kind of focus on all my children, but because of our financial situation I couldn’t. Now, because there are four people in the family earning, we can.… I hope she can study to the point where she doesn’t have to live like me.”[33]

“A lot of work is behind this awareness,” an NGO worker in a poor area of Karachi said, describing what she said was swiftly growing demand for education in the area. She attributed the change to the work of NGOs and others in creating schools in the area. “The literacy rate here is quite high compared to some other areas,” she said. “There are a lot of schools here and people are generally aware regarding the importance of education.”[34]

“Some people say girls should take care of homes, they shouldn’t study,” said a school headmaster in Punjab. “Since they are children, they are preparing to be housewives. But very few people think like this now.”[35]

“I’ve never even seen the face of a school,” said Razia, 37, a mother of four. “I really wanted to study, but my father wouldn’t let me.… In our family it is a tradition that girls don’t study.” Razia struggled to teach herself to read, and she says girls’ education is more accepted now, including in her own family. “The girls in my family are all studying now,” she said. “Things have changed because education changes you…. Before people weren’t educated and now they are and that’s made them accept girls.”[36]

 

II.      Barriers to Girls’ Education within the School System

           

[E]very mother wants their child to be educated but there is not a state system to deliver the services.
—Head of a community-based organization, Karachi, July 2017

While girls face barriers to education outside the school system, many of the most serious barriers to girls’ education are within the school system. The government’s education system suffers from a chronic lack of investment. This means that many children are too far from the nearest school to travel there safely in a reasonable amount of time, if they do not have access to transportation, a problem that becomes more acute as children reach higher grades and schools are in ever-shorter supply. Compulsory education exists on paper but there is no functioning mechanism to require that children go to school. Corruption and nepotism affect who gains employment in the school system, and rural areas are particularly underserved. The Pakistan government has not established an education system adequate to meet the needs of the country’s children.

Lack of Investment

The government does not adequately invest in schools. A 2015 paper commissioned by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals education targets, which include universal completion of primary and secondary school, Pakistan would need to at least double the percentage of GDP going to education.[37]

According to UNESCO guidance to governments, in order for the government to fulfill its obligations on education, it should spend at least 15 to 20 percent of the total national budget, and 4 to 6 percent of GDP, on education.[38] Pakistan is one of about 33 countries which meets neither of these benchmarks, and the percentage increase in expenditure on education has sometimes lagged behind the rate of economic growth, reducing the percentage of GDP spent on education.[39]

Bushra, a 10th grader, sews to help earn money for her school expenses. her mother is a seamstress. education costs often increase as children advance in grades, and while many poor families go to great lengths to access education for their children, too many find it impossible given the lack of schools and expense.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

As of 2016, 12.6 percent of Pakistan’s total expenditure went to education, and as of 2017, 2.758 percent of Pakistan’s GDP was spent on education—both figures well below recommended benchmarks.[40] This low investment continues in spite of a government commitment in 2009 to spend 7 percent of GDP on education, and makes Pakistan the only country in Asia to spend more on its military than on education.[41]

In its 2017-2025 National Education Policy, the government is blunt about its own neglect of the education system, writing:

Pakistan’s education sector has persistently suffered from under-investment by the state, irrespective of the governments in power. Years of lack of attention to the education sector in the form of inadequate financing, poor governance as well as lack of capacity, has translated into insufficient number of schools, low enrolment, poor facilities in schools, high dropout rate, shortage and incompetent teachers, etc. All of this has led to poor quality of education for those who are fortunate enough to get enrolled and no education for the rest.[42]

This diagnosis is refreshingly honest. But there are few signs that it is triggering solutions. Professionals working in the education sector described a situation in which the government seemed disinterested, sometimes pointing out that policymakers send their children to high quality and expensive private schools, and lack any personal investment in the quality of government education.[43] “The state has never taken education seriously—proper resources have never been allocated in any state,” the head of an NGO in Punjab told Human Rights Watch. “The problem is the priories of government—education is not a priority and they don’t allocate the budget.”[44]

Several experts pointed to the government failing to spend even the inadequate amount allocated to education, including funding from the government budget and from international donors, saying underspending occurs consistently and across regions.[45] “Money is going to waste. There’s no system. You need a system of checks and balances and monitoring and political will. You have to have the will,” an expert in Sindh said.[46]

Lack of Enforcement of Compulsory Education

If parents won’t allow their girls to go to school, what can the government do?
—Zarafshan, 18, forced out of school by her uncle at age 12, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

Pakistan’s constitution states, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”[47] Under Pakistan’s decentralized system of service delivery, responsibility rests with provincial governments to pass and enforce laws making education compulsory. In reality, however, there is no organized effort by government to ensure that all children study.

When children are not enrolled in school, no government official reaches out to the family to encourage or require that the child study. When a child drops out of a government school, individual teachers may encourage the child to continue studying, but there is no systematic government effort to enroll or retain children in school. This is incompatible with the constitution and international standards Pakistan has signed up to which require that education be free and compulsory at least through primary school.

Some children try to enforce their right to education through their parents. “My younger daughters go up to their father and say, ‘Put us in school or the government will throw you in jail,’” Zunaisha, 35, said, laughing. “But their father says he can’t afford it.” Zunaisha’s oldest daughter, Hafsa, 16, interjected: “He won’t allow it.” Hafsa was forced to leave school after a year, something she deeply regrets, saying she now has no dreams. “You can only have interests and hobbies if you have an education.” She tried to convince her parents to let her four younger sisters, ages seven to 15, study, but without success. “It’s my father and brothers who don’t let me go to school,” she said. “I think it should be mandatory for girls to study until the 1oth grade. Then if they want to, they can study further.”[48]

Outreach by the government to encourage families to access education—and explain that education is compulsory—could make an immediate difference. Safina, 40, never went to school. She is a mother of 10 children, ages six to 22. One of her children is studying, but she said her other children refused to go and said they were not interested. “The government should have meetings with the parents and explain that kids should go to school,” she said. She suggested the government should send people house to house to talk about education. “Nobody came,” she said. “I wish the same things everyone wishes—that my kids go on to study.”[49]

Saba is one of the almost 22.5 million children in Pakistan who are out of school, the majority of whom are girls. She sells potatoes on the street outside a private school and longs to attend school herself. Poor families often prioritize boys’ education, as grown sons are expected to support their parents in the future while girls marry and join their in-laws’ household.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

In the absence of compulsory education, children sometimes decide themselves whether to study. “My father tried to make me go [to school]—he had no good job but still he wanted his kids to go,” said Kaarima, 19. Her father washes cars for a living. She left school at age 10, after fourth grade, because, she said, she was “not interested.” Some of Kaarima’s siblings study, and some do not.[50] Kaarima’s mother, Sahar, said she and her husband tried to make Kaarima continue studying but she refused. Sahar believes the government should force children to go to school. “It’s good if the government takes this initiative because kids have their own will.”[51] 

Some families are not aware that government schools, with free tuition, are available. Saira, 30, has three sons and one daughter, ages six to 12. Her husband is physically abusive and did not allow Saira to leave the house, but he was away from the home after he found work as a cleaner in a school. “He didn’t want to pay for education, but once he started working, I could sneak out and ask at the church for friends to help our kids go to school,” Saira said. “We didn’t know school was free back then—that’s why the kids didn’t go earlier.” A priest explained that government schools were free, and her husband agreed to enroll the three older children. “When they got admission I cried so much, because I was so happy. When I saw other children in uniform I always wondered, ‘When are my kids going to study?’” Saira never attended school.[52]

Not only are children not required to study, in numerous cases parents and children described situations where teachers urged children to drop out. Palwashay, 16, was in fifth grade and age 14 or 15, when her teacher at government school said she was too old for her grade and should leave. She had low marks and had failed the exam to progress to sixth grade. Her family hopes now to send her to private school.[53]

Shortage of Government Schools

They should open a government school for all of us.
—Ghazal, 16, speaking in a group of 11 out-of-school girls in a poor area of Karachi, July 30, 2017.

There simply are not enough government schools for all children to have access to one. Even in Pakistan’s major cities many children cannot reach a government school on foot in a reasonable amount of time and a safe manner. When families can access a government school, they often find that it is overcrowded.

“The government needs to spend more money and open more schools,” said the head of an NGO working with out of school children. He described an area where his NGO worked: “In two union councils, there was one [government] school. An area that size needs five to ten schools.”[54]

In Peshawar, a local government official said the closest government school was a 40-minute walk away. Because of this, she said, most children start school late, at ages eight to 12, because parents wait for them to be old enough to walk to school on their own.[55] Some parents struggle to pay for a nearby private school for the first year or two of education while they wait for children to become old enough to travel alone to more distant—and more affordable—government schools.[56]

Saba, age 11, who does not attend school, with her mother. Saba’s mother cooks potatoes and Saba sells them on the street. Almost 13 percent of Pakistani children aged 10 to 14 years are in paid employment, rising to 33 percent among children ages 15 to 17--and work, also including housework or child care, often keeps girls out of schools.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

Pakistan has many more boys’ school than girls’ schools, despite the greater safety concerns and restrictions on freedom of movement many girls face.[57] On a national level, in 2016 the government reported equal numbers of middle schools for boys and girls, but major disparities in the number of girls’ primary schools (66,000 girls’ schools out of 165,900 total) and secondary schools (13,400 girls’ schools out of 32,100 total).[58] The disparities become even greater at the level of professional colleges and universities.[59]

In some provinces and local areas, disparities can be higher. For example, in Balochistan there are more than twice as many schools for boys as for girls.[60] A similar disparity exists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: “If you have ten schools for boys, you have five for girls,” an education expert from the province explained.[61] Another expert described an area with 14 high schools for boys and only one for girls.[62]

Aisha, around age 30, lives with her husband and their six children in an area of Peshawar where the nearest government school for boys, offering nursery school through 10th grade, is less than a five-minute walk away. The nearest government school for girls is a 30-minute walk and goes only through fifth grade. Aisha’s daughter quit school at age nine because of her parents’ concerns about her safety walking to school.[63]

Many neighborhoods are education deserts for poor families. “I could send them if there was a government school,” said Akifah, 28, a mother of three children, ages ten, eight, and seven. The family had moved from a village near Multan to Karachi three years earlier, looking for work, and had no choice but to settle in an area where there are only private schools the family cannot afford, but no government schools within reach.[64]

The distance to school often increases as children get older, especially for girls. Schools are more likely to be gender segregated as children get older, and there are fewer schools for girls than for boys. If a primary school is nearby, secondary school is often further, and high school further yet, due to smaller numbers of girls’ schools at the higher levels. The government has acknowledged this gap. For example, the Balochistan provincial education plan identifies it as a barrier for girls, saying, “School availability is further limited by ‘upward bottlenecks’ created by the drastic reduction of the number of schools at the middle and secondary levels, leading to the exclusion of many children, especially girls.”[65]

This gap makes the transition from fifth to sixth grade impossible for many girls. Beenish, 14, left school after fifth grade, because the closest secondary school was a 10 to 15-minute drive. “Both of my parents want me to study,” she said, explaining they would allow her to continue if there was a school nearby. But, she said, she is not allowed to walk through the bazaar, which is on the route to the government secondary school, because her family sees it as unsafe, and the family cannot afford to pay for her transportation. She longs to return to school: “I wake up, I pray, I read the Quran, and I do housework—that’s my day,” she said. “My request to the government is to upgrade the primary school to the secondary level so I can continue my studies.”[66]

A mother takes her daughter to school in Islamabad. government schools generally offer free tuition, but parents and students are still obliged to pay for uniforms, school supplies, and exams fees. These costs put education out of reach for many poor families.

© REUTERS/Sara Farid, February 2014

Girls face another difficult transition when they complete 10th grade. In Pakistan, 10th grade ends with an examination called a secondary school certificate, or SSC. After passing the SSC, students who wish to continue studying go on to a different school, often referred to as an intermediate college, where 11th and 12th grades are taught. Government colleges are in short supply.

Ghazal, 16, lives in a poor area of Karachi. There are two government schools within walking distance of her home, and she completed 10th grade. But to continue she would need to go to a college, and the nearest government college is a half hour drive away, an insurmountable barrier to her poor family. “We don’t have money for more,” she said flatly.[67]

Government colleges, where children study beyond 10th grade, are few and far between, which creates not only barriers in terms of distance, but also fierce competition for admission. “It is competitive to get into government colleges,” the principal of a private school explained. “If children have poor marks, they go to a private college.”[68]

“My hope is that they make government colleges in this area—that is our main issue,” said Asima, 16. “There is one lakh of population here [100,000 people] and no institution for higher learning nearby. The government should take this into account and open an institute here.” She said government schools in their neighborhood go only to eighth grade. She studied to eighth grade at government school, then attended private school for grades nine and ten, but now faces dropping out because her family will only permit her to continue if she can find a job at a college and pay the fees herself. The closest government college is four or five kilometers away, and the family cannot afford for her to travel there by rickshaw.[69]

Urban Versus Rural Differences

The situation is often far harder for families living in rural areas. In villages and the countryside, the distance to a government school can be far greater, and private schools are less likely to be available as they often struggle to earn a profit outside of cities and thus are less likely to fill in gaps created by lack of government schools. Some interviewees said there was no school—government or private—in their village of origin.[70]

Two students at a free non-government school for poor children in the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. The school provides a few hours of classes per day to children who otherwise have no access to education.

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018

In rural areas, like cities, government schools are increasingly scarce as children move from primary to secondary to high school. “In every village, there is a government school, but no college, no higher school,” the headmaster of a private school in a small town in Punjab told Human Rights Watch. “There’s nothing past 10th grade. It’s 13 or 14 kilometers to a college [for children in villages].”[71]

Asifa, 20, delayed attending school until she was nine or ten years old, because it was a 45-minute walk from her village. “My parents said, ‘If you are interested enough you can walk there.’ Whoever wanted to went,” she said. “I found it too far. The path is lonely and isolated and there have been cases of two or three kidnappings in that area…. But then I realized I needed to study so I convinced my parents and I got friends to go so we walked to school together.” The school only went through eighth grade, so after that her only option was to go live with her sister in a town where grade nine and ten is available.[72]

Mina, 22, wanted to be a doctor, but in her village the only way to attend ninth grade is to travel to a college in a town a 45-minute drive away. “I left school because the science teacher wasn’t available until late and I couldn’t come home so late,” she said, explaining the class ended at 6 or 7 p.m. “I asked them to move the time, but the teacher said no.”[73]

Corruption

Corruption is pervasive in Pakistan, which is ranked 117 out of 180 countries on the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.[74] Corruption is a major issue in the government school system.

One of the most pervasive forms is bribery or nepotism in recruitment. Some people simply purchase teaching positions. The director of a community-based organization said that the bribe paid to secure a government teaching position varies but averages around 200,000 rupees (US$1,905). “For the last five years, everyone has to pay. It’s worth it just for the salary—it’s an investment. This has an impact on the quality of the teaching—there’s no teaching. Even the building is being used by the landlord in that area in some places for his own purposes. He’s a powerful man—no one dares challenge him.”[75]

Others obtain jobs through political connections. “I did a BA in arts and have a certificate in teaching—and then an MP from this area helped me,” said a government school headmaster, explaining how he obtained his position. “[Government recruitment] is done on a political basis. Maybe 10 percent is on merit.”[76]

An education expert explained that politicians put people loyal to them into positions in the education system not only for bribes, but also for political influence, as teachers can play a role in elections. “They mobilize people, they help fix elections,” he said. “Teachers are influential people.”[77]

When people purchase a teaching position, they do not necessarily teach. “Everywhere you’ll find a government school—the building is there, the teacher is on the payroll, but there is no teacher and no students,” the director of a community-based organization said. “I personally know many teachers who have other jobs. They are earning 60,000 rupees a month [$571]. They have to give some to the district education officer—it varies, sometimes 10 percent. This is a pattern.” He said there is nothing communities can do: “Teachers are political appointments. They have paid money to get these appointments. There is no pressure because these people cannot be pressured.”[78] UNESCO in 2017 cited findings regarding diverted funds, over 2,000 fake teacher identity cards, and 349 “ghost” schools.[79]

The impact of corruption is particularly devastating in rural areas. “There is pressure on principals in cities to enforce some things,” a staff member at a private school said. “But in the villages sometimes the principals don’t even show up.”[80]

“At least in Karachi the government [education] system is functional,” the director of a community-based organization said. In rural areas, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan, he said there was no pressure on government officials to deliver education effectively, describing local government agencies as “non-functional.” “[A] school is there, but no teachers and no students,” he said.[81]

There is also corruption within schools. “There was a girl in the class who was really dull, but she paid 3,000 rupees [$29] and came first,” said Beena, 40. “My niece cried a lot and said, ‘Why couldn’t you pay so I could come first?’” The girl’s mother added: “The teacher asked for money, but I couldn’t give it, and then [my daughter] passed matric, but with a D.”[82] Beena added: “My friend’s son did well—he studied for his matric. His teacher said, ‘If you do something for me—if you pay us 3,000 rupees—we’ll pass you.’ He said, ‘If I’m doing well, why should I pay?’ Then he failed on three out of four papers at his intermediate course in 12th grade and he got discouraged and left.”[83]

Corruption is an issue in both government and private schools, and some parents said that demands for bribes are more of a problem in private schools, perhaps because of the low salaries.[84]

High Cost of Education

The government doesn’t help the poor. We can’t educate our children, and we can’t feed ourselves.
—Rukhsana, 30, mother of three, with a husband rarely able to work due to illness, Karachi, July 2017.

For most of Pakistan’s families, education costs money.

The decision whether to charge fees at government schools is taken at the subnational level, resulting in a patchwork of different practices. In Sindh, most interviewees reported that government schools did not charge fees. In Punjab, interviewees consistently said they paid fees at government schools, most frequently 10 rupees ($0.09) per month for pre-school classes, and 20 rupees for children in primary school.[85] In Balochistan, a government teacher said her school charged an annual admission fee of up to about 30 rupees ($0.29) and local businesses sometimes assisted children whose families struggled to meet the costs.[86] Children must also pay for exam fees, which can be about 20 rupees at primary level at 30 rupees at secondary level ($0.19 and $0.29).[87]

Government schools are also not automatically less expensive than private schools when you take into account associated costs, which may include registration, exams, books, uniforms, and transport. Private schools often have fewer associated costs, for example for books and uniforms, and may offer discounts on fees. Private schools may also be closer, eliminating or reducing transportation costs.

Costs, even if small, put education out of reach for poor families, and there are many poor families in Pakistan. In 2016, the government set a new “poverty level,” an indicator designating adults subsisting on under 3,030 rupees per month ($29) as living in poverty. Using this benchmark, the government in 2016 determined that about 60 million Pakistanis—6.8 to 7.6 million families—were living in poverty, about 29.5 percent of the country’s population.[88]

Children often switch between government and private school for financial reasons. “My children were in private school initially,” said Pariza, 44, mother of eight. “But the switched to government school because we didn’t have the money for private school.”[89]

Associated Costs of Government Schooling

Parents said sending a child to government school, even at the primary level, cost as much as 5,000 rupees per year in associated costs ($0.48).[90] “The school may be free, but there are always demands for money for something or the other,” said Zarifah, a mother of five. “Copies, stationery, every day there is a new expense. A school bag alone costs 500 rupees [$4.76]…. Every day, every day, it’s something.” Zarifah’s oldest daughter studied to second grade but the family took her out of school because of the expense. Zarifah says she would like to send all her children to school, “but our resources are limited.” She adds: “I cannot send just one child to school as this would be unfair to the other children. They will feel hurt at being left out.” Zarifah’s oldest daughter now studies the Quran with a neighbor; the other children are not in education.[91]

Government schools often provide some, but not all, of the textbooks children need and families must also pay for school supplies. “Some books are provided, and some we buy,” said Aqiba, 18, discussing her family’s struggles to keep Aqiba’s two younger siblings in government school. “They keep adding new books every 15 or 30 days that we have to buy. For example, they added a coloring book recently. We spend 3,000 rupees [$29] per month for books.”[92] Several families estimated that it cost 500-600 rupees per year ($5-6) per child in school supplies for them to send their children to government primary school.[93] Others said the cost was much more, as they had to buy replacements and new notebooks throughout the year.[94]

Uniforms can cost over 1,000 rupees ($9.52).[95] Children who cannot afford uniforms may be excluded from school. For girls, parents must also buy a dupatta [scarf] which one mother said cost another 750 rupees ($7).[96] Students may need several uniforms per school year, and may need uniforms for different seasons.[97] A few government schools give free uniforms to selected students, but such assistance is rare.[98] Shoes cost about 500 ($4.76) rupees new, or perhaps half that if you can find them used.[99]

Paveena, 13, said only one girl in her extended family ever went to school. “My six-year-old cousin really cried for it, so her older brother put her in [school],” Paveena said. “But she only went for a month. She would leave the house at 7 a.m., reach the school at 10 a.m. [But] she was going in her home clothes, instead of the uniform, so the teacher took her out.” Paveena said the uniform cost 1,000 rupees ($9.52) and the family could not afford it. “We really want to go to school, but we don’t have the means.”[100]

Muskaan lives in a neighborhood of Lahore where she says the nearest government middle school for girls is a 15 to 20-minute trip by rickshaw. To make the trip every day would cost 3,500 rupees ($33) per month.[101]

Ann finished eighth grade at a school near her home but would have to travel by rickshaw to reach a school teaching ninth grade. A rickshaw would cost 40 rupees each way ($0.38). Her mother is a tailor, her father a construction worker, and she has three brothers. “I assessed my situation myself and saw the issues with transportation and expense for transportation,” she said. “So, I decided not to pursue it. Then I did housework instead.”[102]

Higher grades are more expensive than lower grades, even in government colleges, in terms of both tuition and associated costs. “For science classes for the matric [10th grade exam] you have to buy special things, like test tubes for 500 rupees [$4.76] each,” said Alima, whose daughter is in 11th grade. “You need frogs. We can find them for free but at this time of year you can’t find them. They sell them for 200 rupees [$1.90]…. I had to look for a frog for two days on the ground, but I couldn’t find one. I went to a fish seller and he said he would get me one for 100 rupees [$0.95]. My daughter needed it for the science practicum class.” Alima’s daughter also had to contribute 500 rupees ($4.76) toward a science set used by the class.[103] 

Madrasa and Informal Tuition as Alternatives to School

Tutoring is sometimes seen as a more affordable option for parents who cannot afford the cost of school.[104] Madrasas are also frequently used as an alternative for girls not able to attend school.[105] Some children attend madrasa in addition to regular school.

Madrasas and tutoring are often closer and cheaper than school. Shumila, 12, said she and her sisters could only attend madrasa because there was no government school for girls (the closest was a 25-minute walk away) in their neighborhood in Quetta. There was a private school a 10-minute walk away that they could not afford, and six or seven madrasas, including one a two-minute walk from their home which was free.[106]

Low cost tutoring is often available. Some madrasas charge fees, but many are free. Both tutoring and madrasas are generally free of associated costs that come with government and private schools. They are also typically easier for children to join, often accepting children on a rolling basis without administrative requirements such as identification and birth certificates.

The lines between a madrasa education and informal tutoring can be blurred. Asadah, 12, is the oldest of six children in her family. She left school after second grade, because the family could no longer afford the expense, and she was needed to help with chores at home. She has managed to go back to studying by attending Quran lessons at a neighbor’s house every morning; her family pays the neighbor 100 rupees per day ($0.95). She is the only child in the family in any type of education. “I then come home and teach my siblings,” she says.[107]

While madrasas and tutoring can provide some education for children who otherwise would go without, they are not an adequate substitute for school. They do not generally teach a full curriculum, and typically lack a path for transitioning students to the formal education system or helping them obtain formal educational qualifications. Students at madrasas often learn only religious subjects. Children attending informal tuition learn whatever the teacher chooses to teach, in whatever time the child shows up.

Najiba, 12, was unable to go to school because there is no government school in her area and her family cannot afford private school. She went to madrasa instead, six days a week for three hours a day, but studied only the Quran, which she said she has now finished.[108]

Sahar, 34, sends three of her children to madrasa, two in lieu of regular school and one in addition to regular school; the family receives a discount at the madrasa because they are poor, so they pay 600 rupees ($6) per month for all three children.[109]

Busrah, 17, lives in a poor fishing community in Karachi. She attended a private school that cost 600 rupees ($6) a month through fifth grade. When her family could no longer pay, she moved to a government school for grade six. “I didn’t complete sixth grade,” she said. “I just didn’t think the place was right. At private school the teacher used to focus on the students but at government school they didn’t.” After leaving the government school, Busrah joined a madrasa, but left after a year. “They had this whole concept of purdah, but I can’t do this because I have to fetch water, so that didn’t work out,” she said, explaining that the madrasa required girls to cover their whole body, including wearing gloves and socks, anytime they were outside their home. “It’s very hot.”[110]

Quality of Education

There are not enough good quality schools [in this area]. Parents get disheartened and take kids out.
—Career counselor at a youth center in a poor area of Karachi, July 2017.

Poor families, unable to afford elite private schools, are left with the options of government schools or low-cost private schools. Parents in this situation often expressed concerns about the quality of education. Some felt that the quality was so poor that there was no point sending children to school at all.

The government itself acknowledges concerns about poor quality government schools. For example, the Balochistan government writes: “The quality of education also remains poor and the exponential growth of private schools in the province indicates the low levels of confidence in public sector schooling.”[111]

Quality concerns differ in government versus private schools. In government schools, parents and students complained of teachers not showing up, overcrowding, and poor facilities. At private schools, particularly low-cost private schools, concerns more often related to teachers being poorly educated and under qualified. In both government and private schools, use of corporal punishment and abusive behavior by teachers was widely reported.

Quality Concerns in Government Schools

Families had a range of complaints about government schools, including absent and abusive teachers, violent forms of punishment, overcrowding and insecurity in the schools, poor facilities including lack of toilets and water, and frustrations with the curriculum.

Teacher Absences and Qualifications

Many families complained of teachers being absent from school. “Sometimes students go to school and there’s no teacher, so they miss out on their studies,” said Tehreem, 21, who attended government school before becoming a teacher. “This happens here. I am speaking from experience. Throughout the year they wouldn’t teach us, and then for the last three months there would be all this pressure before exams. In a week, they would come once or twice. Mostly this is the case in primary schools—this a crucial development time for children, but the teacher is not there.” Of her current unpaid work in a free tuition center, she said, “We feel happy doing this, and we want these children to get a better education than what we got in government schools.”[112]

Atifa, 16, and her sister, Hakimah, 17, live in Karachi. They both left school after fifth grade. “A lot of times the teacher showed up late or he would not show up at all. We would just go and sit and then come home,” Hakimah said, about their primary school. Their younger sister, Zafra, 12, left school after grade two or three. “I had the same issues—teachers wouldn’t show up. I left because of that—I didn’t feel I was learning.”

After completing fifth grade, Atifa and Hakimah tried to register for secondary school. “We’ve been trying to get admission there for a while,” Hakimah said, of the government secondary school nearest their home, a 15-minute walk away. “But we would go, and they would say, ‘The headmistress is not here—come another day.’ We went three or four times and then gave up.… Then finally we tried the private school, but we found it cost too much money for us—700 or 800 rupees per student per month [$7-8].”[113]

Many interviewees pointed to teacher absences as one of the key factors in their preference for private schools. “In private schools they have to always show up,” said Layla, 50, a grandmother, after explaining that teachers are often absent at the nearby government school.[114]

Although teachers in government schools typically earn more than private school teachers, some experts cited poor salaries as a reason for teacher absenteeism in government schools, along with the corruption issues discussed above. “The issues are teacher salaries—they are paid badly and there is no job security because now the government is giving short term contracts,” a labor rights expert in Punjab said. “If teachers are paid well in government schools, the quality will improve.” He said teacher salaries start at 15,000 rupees ($143) per month—the equivalent of the national minimum wage.[115] Government teachers interviewed for this report reported earning monthly salaries ranging from the 8,000 rupees ($76) paid to a primary school teacher in Karachi to a high school teacher in Peshawar who said she earned 78,000 rupees ($743) per month.[116]

The director of a community-based organization said that the Sindh government had discussed creating a biometric system using fingerprints to track teacher attendance, but it was never implemented. “There was no interest from the high level. There is no shortage of money in the education system in Sindh, but it is not being used properly.”[117] In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a teacher said that a biometric system for monitoring teacher attendance had been implemented and had significantly improved teacher attendance.[118]

Experts and families also had concerns about teachers’ qualifications and motivation. “There are a lot of challenges,” the principal of a government school in Karachi said. “Illiterate teachers with only a matric are being appointed as teachers. They don’t know how to learn and teach. We face this a lot.” He said that on paper the government requires primary school teachers to have completed a one-year post-matric training course, but in recent years people without this qualification were being appointed. “The main problem was politicians,” he said. “Politicians appoint their family and party workers as teachers…. The politician thinks about his voter and his own benefit. He has to reward the people who support him.”[119]

“Teachers in government school just eat sweets while the children play outside—they don’t focus on the kids,” said Maryan, 36, explaining why she and her husband sent their children to private school. When Maryan’s husband lost his job as an electrician in Saudi Arabia, they could no longer afford the cost of private school, and the children stopped studying.[120]

Overcrowding

Government schools often suffer from unmanageable class sizes. Class sizes in government schools are meant to be limited—in some areas, for example, to 35 students.[121] But children and experts said classes are often much larger—50 to 80 students, and sometimes more.[122] “In government schools, there are very few teachers,” a worker at a youth center in Karachi said. “There will be one teacher who is supposed to be teaching two sections. One section is supposed to be 35 kids but usually it is more—45, 50—so you have one teacher for 90 to 100 kids.”[123]

A teacher in Peshawar said she struggled to teach high school subjects to classes of sometimes over 60 students.[124] Another government teacher, in Peshawar, said she had 120 students: “too many.” She also complained of a grueling schedule: “One teacher can’t teach eight classes in a row,” she said.[125]

Overcrowding drives children out of government schools. “At the government college and government school it’s so crowded it’s chaotic and you can’t focus mentally,” said Marzia, who helps run an informal school in her family’s home in Karachi.[126]

Maryam has worked at a private school for nine years. She attended government school for her own education, and said that overcrowding has grown worse:

This is recent. In the past, before 2000, government schools were seen as very good, but the reputation of government schools has gone down because there are so many students in one class. How can teachers focus on this many kids?... I went to government school and was really happy. My sister is 14 years younger. She found it a different place, not good. When I was learning … if I had a question I could ask as many times as I want. Now, if you learn, fine. If you don’t, the teacher won’t explain again.[127]

Overcrowding can lead to government schools turning children away. A headmaster of a private school in Punjab said the government school in his area refuses to enroll new students. If they didn’t, he said, “I wouldn’t have to run a private school.”[128]

Because of overcrowding, many schools have several shifts a day. This shortens the school day, typically to only four hours, making it impossible to cover a full curriculum.[129]

Water, Sanitation, and Facilities

If there are teachers, there are no classrooms. If there are classrooms, there are no teachers.
—Government teacher in Peshawar, August 2017

Government schools are often in poor physical condition, unable to offer a safe learning environment. “The education policy is not implemented,” the head of an NGO working with out of school children said. He described specific rules about the number of rooms and chairs schools should have but said these are not followed. “The laws and policies are there, but they are not implemented because there are no resources,” he added. “We are not in a position to upgrade our education system.”[130]

“There is not enough money for buildings, toilets, washrooms, furniture,” the headmaster of a government primary school in Karachi, who has worked in the government education system for 25 years, said. “Every government school faces these problems.”

He had recently been assigned to a different school where the situation was worse than at his previous school. “There are no windows or doors—just a ceiling and walls. No chairs—we are trying to arrange chairs. Kids sit on the floor. There is no water at the school—kids go home to have water. There are no washrooms or toilets—they go back home [if they need the toilet].… Naturally it does affect our ability to teach.”[131]

An education expert pointed out that poor infrastructure, particularly lack of toilets, creates greater difficulties for girls than for boys. “Schools in rural areas are not built for girls’ needs,” he said. “There is no toilet, no water, no boundary walls, no security.”[132]

Thirty-seven percent of schools do not have basic sanitation or toilet facilities.[133] Girls who have started menstruation are particularly affected by poor toilet facilities. Without private gender-segregated toilets with running water, they face difficulties managing menstrual hygiene at school and are likely to stay home during menstruation, leading to gaps in their attendance that undermine academic achievement, and increase the risk of them dropping out of school entirely.[134]

“There is an issue with drinking water in the school,” said Zafira, 15, a ninth-grade student in government school. “Generally, in this area there are water shortages, so sometimes for a week there is no drinking water at school.” Zafira said students bring their own water or go without.[135]

Poor facilities also affect school staff. Shazia, 24, is a private school teacher. “I have friends who are government teachers,” she said. “They said I should work for the government.” Shazia decided not to apply. “There are none of the facilities that I get here—electricity, a generator, furniture. The salaries are high, but the infrastructure is very bad,” she said. “In so many schools there are no toilets and no clean water. These are the reasons that I didn’t want to work there, and my in-laws didn’t want me to work there.”[136]

 

Quality Concerns in Private Schools

Experts and educators raised concerns about the quality of education in some low-cost private schools. One expert said, “My real concern is low-cost private schools.... Kids spend six or ten years in these schools and learn nothing.”[137]

Teacher Qualifications, Training, and Salaries

Private schools often maximize profits by paying teachers as little as possible, which results in them hiring teachers with few qualifications.

“In private schools, teachers get very low salaries,” the head of a community-based organization told Human Rights Watch, adding that in the area where his organization works private school teachers earn 1,500 to 3,000 rupees a month ($14-28). “Minimum wage [for government teachers] is 15,000 [$143] so they are getting one tenth or one fifth as much.” He said that the private school teachers are usually required only to have completed 10th grade, and most are women.[138]

A government teacher in Balochistan contrasted her terms of employment—18,000 rupees per month salary ($171) with an annual raise, pension, health benefits, annual and parental leave, and annual training—with that of private school teachers she knew, who she said earned 4,000 to 5,000 rupees per month ($38-48) with no benefits.[139] A government headmaster said that while physical conditions are generally better in private schools, he wouldn’t work in one due to low salaries and lack of benefits.[140]

Experts said conditions of employment are similar for teachers in NGO schools: “You have one teacher with 20 students in one room. The teacher earns 5,000 rupees [$48] a month…. [I]nformal school teachers should have proper training and higher salaries.”[141]

Lack of Government Regulation of Private Education

Private schools are obliged to register with and obtain a certification from the relevant government authority. But oversight, both through and after the registration process, is sparse. “They are registered with government but not standardized,” the head of an NGO said.[142] An education expert pointed to the role of some government officials as owners of companies operating private schools as a barrier to monitoring, citing examples where these politicians had intervened to block government from more closely regulating private schools in ways that might reduce profits.[143]

Government officials inspect private schools periodically, but inspections are often cursory. The headmaster of a private school in Punjab said the government inspects his school, “But they are not effective. They come, but they are not doing a good job.”[144]

“Once or twice a year they come, unannounced,” another private school principal said. “They come for a half hour. They want tea and to be entertained. You have to please them or they will say that your school is not good. Once I made the inspector wait and he got mad and left and said, ‘I will write a bad report.’ My colleague went to his house and gave him 25,000 rupees [$238] and we got a good report.”[145]

Private schools are free to choose their own curriculum, though some use the government curriculum. “We set the curriculum—no one tells us what to teach,” a headmaster of a private school explained.[146] “There is no monitoring of the curriculum,” the head of an NGO said.[147] As they prepare students for government exams after sixth grade, some private schools become more likely to use the government curriculum.[148]

Because private schools are so unregulated, they can vary dramatically in terms of not only teaching quality but also the adequacy and safety of the facilities, with some low-cost private schools in very poor facilities.

There also exists an entire world of private tutoring, often providing additional help for children in school, but sometimes the last resort for children unable to access schools. Tutoring often consists simply of a teacher—usually a woman or girl—setting up classes in her home. While some tutors are motivated by philanthropy, other are businesses, and such tuition is often entirely unregulated. Private tuition does not provide children with a path for transitioning into a school or obtaining educational qualifications. Parents who are uneducated likely have difficulty assessing the quality of private tuition and are vulnerable to exaggerated claims by tutors. 

Because there is such unmet demand for education, and the sector is so unregulated, establishing a school has become a business option for educated girls and women. Gulrukh, who left school after eighth grade, started her own tutoring business. “I take 50 rupees [$0.48] per month per child and five or six children come to me,” she said. She helps those in school with their homework and teaches the Urdu alphabet to those not in school.[149]

Basma, 12, left government school after class two or three because of abusive behavior by teachers and violence among pupils. She moved to a private school but left after class five when the family could no longer afford the fees. At the time of the interview she was attending private tuition, paying 500 rupees ($4.76) per month for classes from 8 to 11 a.m. every day. Basma’s mother supports the family as a tailor; she wants Basma to become a doctor.[150]

Rukhsana, 30, and her 17-year-old daughter, neither of whom ever studied, are employed together in a private home as domestic workers. They moved to Karachi from a village in Punjab seeking work. In their village, the local school charged 1,000 rupees a month ($9.52), which the family could not afford, so none of Rukhsana’s three children studied. In Karachi, Rukhsana was approached by a woman providing private tuition. “This lady is in the area—she said send your kids and I’ll teach them,” Rukhsana said. She decided to send her 7-year-old son—the first time one of her children has studied—but struggles to pay fees of 500 rupees ($4.76) per month. She worries about the quality of the instruction and is frustrated that the teacher sometimes cancels classes.[151]

Corporal Punishment and Other Abusive Behavior by Teachers

Use of corporal punishment and other types of abusive behavior by teachers is widespread. It seems to be a greater problem in government school but also occurs in private schools. “Once they hit me so hard the stick broke,” said Hakimah, 17, about her government primary school. “They also force us into the chicken position.” Her sister Atifa described the “chicken position”, which she had also experienced: “You have to put your arms under your knees while sitting, and then put your hands on your cheeks. You sit like this for a long time—like a half hour.” Hakimah added, “We were hit three or four times a week—if we would get to school a little late they would hit us for that.”[152]

Corporal punishment drives many children out of school. Somia, 12, was 11 years old and in class three in a government school when she quit. “My father told me to leave, because the teacher used to hit me a lot, with a steel rod on my hands.” She said that she was hit every day, whenever she made a mistake on her lesson. “In first grade, I had a different teacher who wasn’t angry, but in second grade the teacher was very angry and started hitting me,” Somia said. “Everyone got hit. She has a temper. She was hitting every kid every day.… The principal didn’t know she was hitting—no one told him. If anyone said anything, they would have been beaten by the teacher.” Somia now studies in a madrasa but is frustrated that her dreams of becoming a doctor ended when she left school.[153]

Although private school teachers are under pressure not to drive students away, due the financial interests of their employers, private schools also use corporal punishment. “It was a very good school, but they used to hit us,” said Aliya, age 10 or 12, describing the private school she attended up to second grade. “They made us go in the chicken position…. The teacher used to pull our hair. She used to hit me every day.”[154]

“The teacher used to beat us up, hit us with a stick,” said Shaheen, 16. She went to both government and private schools, and was beaten in both. She said she was beaten when there were fights between students and when the principal told her to cut her hair and she resisted. She saw other students beaten after missing class, so when her family went away to a festival and she missed school she was afraid to go back and quit.[155]

Students also reported abuse in schools run by NGOs. Atifa, 17, said that her 9-year-old brother dropped out of a school funded by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) because he was being hit by the teacher. “He wants to go but every time he goes back to this class he gets hit again,” she said.[156]

Some teachers forced children to do chores for them. “I didn’t like school because the teacher would make me do chores outside, like go get her fruit,” said Noor, 15, describing her government village school. “We would come in the morning and she would send up off to do some chores. Even in school holidays she would make us do work…. We would go to her house—she lived far away. We would go and do the shopping for her and then go to school.” Noor said the teacher slapped her once when she tried to refuse to do chores.[157]

Asifa, 20, said at age 13 and 14 she was forced to clean the house of her teacher at a village government school, and students were also forced to do agricultural work in a teacher’s fields. “There was no one to complain to,” she said. “As a child you can’t understand. The teacher would threaten that, ‘If you go home and complain to someone I’ll remove you from school…. Village people think there’s no point in sending a child to government school—when you see examples like this, parents aren’t going to send kids.”[158]

Basma, 12, left government school because of fighting in her school. “The teachers would not stop fights. They were always on the phone,” she said. During inspections of the school, Basma said the teachers would behave well. But after inspectors left, “the teachers would go back to being themselves. There was no discipline. They were even rude to parents.”[159] Her mother added: “[T]hey are like this with all the children. Teachers insult children. They say things like, ‘Don’t sit with this child—he is dumb.’”[160]

Students struggling academically are sometimes targeted for abuse. “Teachers used to create hurdles for some students, if they didn’t like some, regardless of whether the student was good or not,” said Tamana, 15, who dropped out at age 13: “My teacher would call my mother, saying I shouldn’t be in school…. So then my mother took me out. She said I wasn’t doing well in my studies, but I got 90 out of 100.” Tamana said the teacher singled out her and a friend of hers who also dropped out as a result. Tamana’s mother complained to the school principal, but the principal sided with the teacher. She thought perhaps she was targeted because she is short. “The teacher kept saying I should be in a lower section [because I’m small].”[161]

Children are sometimes afraid to complain of abuse because it may lead to their parents removing them from school. “My mother said if she [the teacher] is hitting you, just leave,” said Aliya, age 10 or 12.[162]

Noor, 15, said her teacher slapped her after she tried to refuse to do chores such as food shopping for the teacher’s family. “But I told my parents I was slapped for not doing my work,” Noor said. “I lied because if I told them the truth [that I was spending part of the school day doing chores for my teacher] they wouldn’t send me to school anymore.”[163]

Administrative Barriers at Government School

Families sometimes face administrative barriers to registering children in school, including requirements for birth certificates, national identification cards, age restrictions, and demands for certificates from previous schools. These barriers can be difficult to overcome, particularly for families that are poor, that move frequently from one location to another, or where parents are not literate. Requirements to register in school can vary from one place to another and be applied with varying levels of strictness.

Children are sometimes required to provide birth certificates to register for school. Malaika, 45, registered her older children in government school without birth certificates, but when she went to register her youngest son the school had a new requirement for a birth certificate, which she did not have. Instead she sent him to an NGO school funded by UNICEF, which did not require a birth certificate.[164]

Farzana, age 25 to 30, mother of six, moved from a village to Karachi two months earlier. She is determined that her children, who were in school in the village, study again, but has been told she cannot register them in government school in Karachi without birth certificates, so she is waiting for their father to get birth certificates from the village.[165]

Other schools require that children provide national identification cards. Salma, 12, never went to school because her father doesn’t have a national ID card (known as a CNIC) and that means she can’t get one—and identification is necessary to register in school.[166]

Some groups face barriers to obtaining identification. “We don’t have CNICs in this area,” said Samra, 11, explaining why she has not studied.[167] The neighborhood consists largely of people who migrated from Bangladesh during the war between Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1971, and many are unable to obtain identification cards due to difficulties proving that they are citizens of Pakistan. This means their children are barred from government school, and prevents individuals from working in the fishing industry, a common occupation in the area. The fear of problems with law enforcement further restricts their movement, making education even more inaccessible. “Sometimes rangers just pick up people from this neighborhood for identification, for random checks,” said Samra’s mother.[168]

Gulrukh, 20, studied through eighth grade, but was unable to continue. “To give exams for ninth and 10th grade, you need a B form,” she said. “I can’t get it because my mother doesn’t have a CNIC.” Gulrukh said her mother migrated to Pakistan from Bangladesh in 1971 and, because she applied several times for a CNIC at different offices, she has been blacklisted from obtaining a card. Her father also came from Bangladesh, but earlier, and his parents were able to get him an ID card before the war.[169]

Some schools place age restrictions on who can study, which create barriers for girls who started school late or had disrupted schooling, putting them in a class behind where they should normally be for their age. Many children, especially girls, start school late, and need to be able to access education behind the regular schedule. “Fifteen and sixteen-year-old girls want admission for sixth grade,” a teacher in Peshawar said.[170]

“When I wanted to get admission, I tried to go to fifth grade, but I was 14,” said Khadijah, 14. “They said, ‘If you are 13 you can go, but you are too old.’ What does it have to do with age? It should have to do with ability.”[171]

“If you are over 16, you need special permission to sit for the ninth and 10th grade exams,” the head of a youth center told Human Rights Watch.[172]

Many poor families interviewed for this report move frequently, seeking work or struggling with insecure housing. Administrative barriers can contribute to children in these families falling out of school. Sara, 16, had completed fifth grade when her family moved from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Karachi. The family stayed temporarily in an area with a school nearby, and Sara attempted to enroll, but was turned away, first because she did not have a certificate from her previous school, and then because exams were taking place. She was told to come back later, but before she was supposed to return, the family moved again. “When we moved to another area, there was no government school nearby, and my father couldn’t afford private school,” Sara said. The nearby private school costs 350 rupees ($3) per month. Sara’s father is a security guard at a garment factory.[173]

 

III.    Barriers to Girls’ Education Outside the School System

Poverty, housework, purdah.
—Gulrukh, 20, listing reasons girls in her poor neighborhood in Karachi do not go to school, Karachi, July 2017.

Poverty, child labor, gender discrimination and harmful social norms, and insecurity and dangers on the way to school create barriers to girls’ education. Many families are too poor to afford even the costs associated with attending a government school, let alone paying for private education. Poverty drives many families to put their children to work, which often keeps them out of school.

Other girls are kept home to do housework. Restrictions on girls’ freedom of movement due to harmful gender norms push many girls out of school, as does child marriage. Families short on resources often decide to educate sons and not daughters.

An insecure environment, where sexual harassment is a regular experience for many girls, fear of kidnapping and other crime is pervasive and well-founded, and conflict and attacks on education pose very real threats, prompts many parents to keep their girls home from school. Fear of violence and harassment may make what would otherwise be feasible walks to school seem too far.

 A teacher in a government school in Balochistan summed up these challenges and said: “This happens every year: we have a high number of admissions in the beginning and little by little the girls drop out. By fifth grade, there are only four girls left.”[174]

Poverty

We’re poor people, we don’t go to school.
—Neda, 17, Karachi, July 2017.

Whatever money we get, we feed ourselves.
—Akifah, 28, mother of three out-of-school children, Karachi, July 2017.

For many families, the most fundamental barrier to education is financial. “In this area, about half of girls go to school and about half don’t,” said Aqiba, 18, who left school at age 12 in Lahore. “For the ones who don’t go, it’s always because they can’t afford it.”[175]

“If there was no poverty, parents would be able to send their daughters to school,” said Mariam, formerly a private school teacher, who now runs a free tuition center in her Karachi home.[176]

“I was the sole breadwinner then, because my husband has a heart condition and couldn’t work,” said Pariza, 44, a mother of eight, explaining why most of her older children studied to grade 10 or 12, but her youngest daughter had to drop out of 5th grade. “I was the only one earning, so I needed help. I was working in a garment factory, so my daughter had to cook.” The family moved from their village to Lahore—where Pariza had more opportunities to find work—after family in the village tired of helping them financially. In Lahore, however, unlike the village, they had to pay rent, and Pariza had just received an electricity bill for 30,000 rupees (US$286). “I never went to school—I understand the value of education,” said Pariza. But she felt overwhelmed by financial difficulties. “There is no hope for poor people in Pakistan. I don’t see any hope for my situation.”[177]

“I wanted my daughters to get educated, but I couldn’t because of poverty,” said Halima, 38, mother of five daughters, ages 13 to 19, none of whom studied more than a year or two. Her husband works in a chewing gum factory. “My husband’s salary is 12,000 rupees [$114] a month. At the end of the month, we are always out [of money] and wonder what to do—it is all gone. I want a school for girls who belong to poor families.”[178]

Bad luck, failed crops, illness or a death can easily put education out of reach. Muskaan was in seventh grade when her father, a construction worker, fell from a mosque building site and died. Her mother struggles to support her seven daughters and three sons. An uncle helping the family financially refused to pay for the girls to study. “He said, ‘You’re a girl, and girls should just cook.’”[179]

“My father passed away and I had to be the breadwinner,” said Talween, 20. She and her two siblings attended a private school where the fees were 1,800-1,900 rupees per month per child ($17-18). Talween was among the top three students until her father’s death—and the loss of his income as an employee of the government’s water board—forced her out of eighth grade. She trained as a beautician and became the family’s sole wage earner. “As long as my father was there he was taking care of everything, but since he’s been gone I’ve been taking care of everything and running the household,” Talween, whose mother has a disability and cannot work, said. “Parents should have enough so that girls can complete their education.”[180]

As children get older, they are sometimes obliged to pay their own school fees if they wish to continue studying. Asima, 16, has an 18-year-old brother who works full-time, pays his own school fees, and is in 12th grade. Asima just completed 10th grade and wants to become a doctor. Her father said, “She can study as much as she wants if she pays herself.” But finding employment can be more difficult for girls than boys, due to harmful gender norms, discrimination, and restrictions on their freedom of movement. Asima’s father said the only job he would allow her to do that would permit her to pay school fees is a position as a receptionist at the school she attends. “I want to study further,” she said. “But because of the financial situation in my house I think I won’t be able to.”[181]

Lack of future employment opportunities discourages some families from educating girls. “We do want our daughter to get an education,” said Aisha, about her 14-year-old daughter, Bushrah. “But even boys don’t get jobs after college, and we’re poor. So, it doesn’t make sense. Boys can’t get jobs, so how will girls?” She said in her neighborhood, there are only two young women who studied as far as 10th grade, and neither have jobs.[182]

Many poor families move between urban and rural areas as a survival strategy. Families living in rural areas sometimes travel to the cities where work may be more plentiful. Families settled in the cities often return to the village where they have roots for weddings, funerals, and other visits. Movement back and forth often disrupts children’s access to education, especially for girls.

“I was late starting school because of all the back and forth,” said Noor, 15, whose family has moved every two or three years between Karachi and their home village her whole life. Noor said the frequent moves happened because the family wanted to live in the village but were repeatedly forced back to the city by lack of work in the village. Her father paints houses; in the city her mother finds work as a maid. Noor began school at ages 3, 10, and 13, but only reached second grade, because of disruption. At the age of 14, when the family moved to Karachi again, she gave up.[183]

Families living between two locations may be able to access schools in one place, but not the other. Sheherbano is 15 and just finishing fifth grade. She was behind in her studies because she left school for several years when her family returned from Karachi to their village. “We went to Punjab for two to three years and I didn’t study at all there,” she said. “We didn’t know much about school there.”[184]

Children switching schools are sometimes obliged to repeat grades. Rania, 14, moved between Karachi and her family’s village several times, as her parents sought work in the city but were pulled back to the village by family ties. She completed first grade in Karachi, but when her family returned to the village had to redo first grade. The family moved back to Karachi again one year before Human Rights Watch interviewed Rania. This time Rania did not go back to school because the family viewed the stay as temporary and rent in Karachi was too high to leave money for education costs. She hopes to attend second grade after the family returns to the village.[185]

Child Labor

Many children, girls and boys, are out of school because they are working. Sometimes they are engaged in paid work, which for girls often consists of home-based industries, such as sewing, embroidery, or assembling small items. Other children—almost always girls—are kept home to do housework in the family home.

Some NGOs run specialized schools designed to accommodate children’s work schedules, with books and school supplies provided for free, and incentives such as a free meal for students. “We have given recommendations to the government, we said from 5 to 9 p.m. you should have a shift of school for kids who can’t go earlier. They are done with their work and housework and are relaxed then,” an NGO worker said. She also urged outreach to children and families, bringing the message, “You can work and study at the same time.”[186]

Housework in the Family Home

My mother had to go to work and my siblings were young.
—Taslima, 18, explaining why she left school after second grade, Karachi, July 2017.

The pressure to take on housework drives many girls out of school, especially when their mother works outside of the home. “I do housework—all the housework,” said Basooma, 16. “I am the only one doing the work in this house.” Her mother is one of her father’s two wives, both of whom are domestic workers in private homes, leaving Basooma responsible for the tasks in the family home. Basooma has three siblings, two brothers and a younger sister. All her siblings studied, but Basooma was told she was needed for housework. “I really want to study,” she said.[187]

“When we were young, we went to school, but now because our mother works, we can’t go,” said Azwa, 16, describing her situation and that of her 18-year-old sister. Their mother works as a maid. Azwa’s older sister married at age 11, so Azwa, at age ten, left school to take over housework for the family which includes their father and two brothers. “There was no one to take care of the house—I can’t leave the house alone.”[188]

Often one girl in the family sees her education sacrificed to housework, while others study. Nadia and her sister Sahar Gul went to a government school together in Karachi and did the family’s housework together after school. When Nadia was 17 and in ninth grade, however, a death in the family prompted a visit to their village. While there, Sahar Gul liked the village school, and their parents agreed for her to stay with extended family and study. Left to do the housework alone back in Karachi, Nadia could no longer manage both that and studying. “My sister missed a lot of days of school to do housework after I stayed in Punjab,” Sahar Gul explained. “So, then the school threw her out.” A year later Sahar Gul was still studying and hoped to become an engineer. Their parents sent Nadia to seamstress training, and she continued to do all the housework.[189]

Eldest daughters often bear the brunt of housework.[190] Rabia, 16, lives with her father, three brothers, and two younger sisters—her mother died eleven years ago. Her younger siblings are all studying, and her older brother completed 10th grade, but Rabia quit fourth grade. “I’m the eldest daughter and I have to take care of the home,” she said. “My father’s health is not that great. I have to take care of all the younger siblings and the house.”[191]

“I give food to my younger siblings—my mother goes to work,” said Aynoor, 13, the oldest of five children. Aynoor’s eight-year-old sister is in school, but Aynoor left school after second grade when the family moved from a village to Karachi and her mother found employment as a domestic worker. “I do these things because I am the oldest sister.”[192]

When older daughters marry, the responsibility for housework often shifts from them to a younger sister, in turn pushing her out of school. “When my sisters were unmarried, I used to go to school,” said Parween, 17, whose mother has impaired vision and physical limitations because of diabetes and other illnesses. Parween attended school from age 10 to 13, completing second grade before she was forced to drop out and take on household work after her three older sisters married at ages 17 or 18. “I felt bad [about leaving school],” she added. “My father stopped me from going because there was no one to work at home.” Her older sisters had studied briefly but were also forced to leave school to take on domestic work at home. Parween described her daily routine of cleaning the house, washing clothes, and preparing meals for her parents and her two brothers.[193]

Paid Labor

I used to try to study, but I couldn’t remember anything and the financial situation at home was such that I had to work. And then I would come home so tired I would just eat and go to sleep.
—Aziza, 23, works making spices, Karachi, July 2017.

Child labor remains widespread in Pakistan, though exact figures are hard to come by. The International Labour Organization cites estimates that almost 13 percent of children aged 10 to 14 years are in employment, rising to 33 percent among children ages 15 to 17.[194] The US Department of Labor says that in Punjab 12.4 percent of 5 to 14-year-olds are working, and in Sindh that figure is 31.5 percent.[195] An NGO staff member working in poor areas of Lahore estimated that 70 percent of children in those neighborhoods are in paid employment, much of it home-based.[196]

Experts pointed to lack of effort by the government to end harmful child labor. “Poverty has gone down slightly, according to figures, but we don’t see change regarding child labor,” a labor rights expert said:

The government is not enforcing laws against child labor. For example, the government passed a law banning children under 14 from working at brick kilns, but it has not done anything to raise the parents’ income. So, this new law means some kids moved from brick making to other sectors, but they may be less safe now because they are isolated and not with their parents. So, we don’t see these measures as helpful. You have to address poverty and really implement labor laws, especially enforcing the minimum wage—and the minimum wage is too low. You need a living wage, and you need to make people follow it…. It’s not a priority for government. When steps are taken, it’s because of international pressure.[197]

Children in families interviewed for this report worked in occupations including home-based industries such as sewing, embroidery, jewelry making, making furniture (string beds), as domestic workers in other families’ homes, at brick kilns, and fishing, and working children were rarely in school. “Those children who are out of school, it’s because they are involved in some kind of economic activity,” the head of a community-based organization. “They are engaged in some work, so they don’t have the time [to study].[198]

“In poor households both parents work and there are four or five children,” a school headmaster in a poor area of Karachi explained. “Child labor is prevalent throughout Pakistan, but it is more prevalent in places like this.” He explained that children typically start work at age eight to ten, helping with their parents’ work. “A child that is working with the mother or father, to leave his earning that the family needs—how is this possible? If the government supported the family, then the child could go to school.”[199]

Home-based industries account for much child labor by girls. This labor is largely invisible and unregulated, as it takes place in private, is often itinerant, and has no fixed hours. Children are particularly likely to work with their parents when the parents are employed in the home, an NGO worker said: “In one house, all the kids and their parents work.”[200]

“More than 75 percent of workers are in the informal economy,” a labor rights expert told Human Rights Watch. “Home-based industry is the biggest sector in Pakistan. The implementation of labor laws is very weak even in factories, and production is moving from bigger factories to smaller factories to home. More and more things are being made at home. The reasons for this include cost saving, but also avoiding labor rights laws. These workers are not covered by Pakistan’s labor laws. And it is mostly girls working at home with their mothers—this is very common.”[201]

In some areas, boys are more vulnerable to missing education due to child labor than girls. For example, in a fishing community, an activist explained that more girls study than boys, because boys often join their fathers on fishing boats from age 12 or 13 or even younger, and long days offshore make it impossible to attend school regularly.[202]

Some children manage to combine work and school.[203] But many other are kept or taken out of education so that they can work. Barriers to accessing school, and concerns about the quality of schools, encourage poor parents to opt for children to work instead. “The parents send the kids off to work at young ages because they think what’s the use of studying, because the school is poor quality,” a teacher explained. She went on to talk about the daughters of domestic workers: “Their mothers take them to work with them starting at young ages if there is extra work, such as guests visiting.”[204]

“The situation in my house was not such that I could study,” said Samika, 13. “My brothers don’t do anything, so I started working at age 10.” Samika learned embroidery from her mother and older sisters. She earns 100 rupees ($0.95) per piece of embroidery; one piece takes her two days. “I work throughout the day, from morning until 2 p.m., then I do housework until 4, then zari [embroidery] again until 8 or 9 p.m. Then I’m tired,” she said. “I try to make my parents understand [that I want to study] but my father says, ‘We’re not in a financial position to send you.’” Samika said the nearest government school charges 250 rupees ($2.38) a month and is an hour-long walk away. “I wish to tell the government that however they can do it, please make a school here so that I can go to school.”[205]

Sometimes all the children in a family work. Azeeba, 11, does embroidery with her three sisters, ages 9, 12, and 15, and her brother, aged 13. The children work 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., earning 400 rupees ($3.81) each per day. “I give some of the money to my mother and father and for the rent,” Azeeba said. The family’s rent is 5,000 rupees ($48) a month, and both parents have health problems. Azeeba’s father has intermittent work as a metal polisher, and her mother does not do paid work. Azeeba’s brother and youngest sister both study and work, but the family can’t afford education for the others.[206]

Efforts to make it easier for children who are working to study are few and poorly funded. Mahvish, 13, and three of her siblings studied for the first time three years earlier, when an NGO opened a school for working children in their area of Lahore providing all supplies for free plus free lunch. The family managed to allow them to stop working and focus on their studies. The NGO had recently run out of money, however, and the school closed. Mahvish was back at work, with her 11-year-old sister and brothers, ages 8 and 15. The children make necklaces, and the family earns 10 rupees ($0.10) per dozen. Mahvish said she can make six dozen a day, earning 60 rupees ($0.57). Their mother makes necklaces with them and does embroidery, while their father irons laundry. Although there is a government school nearby, Mahvish says the children cannot study there. “I would have to buy the books myself,” she said. “There’s no money for books.”[207]

Girls with mothers employed as domestic workers often help. Tamana, 15, an oldest daughter, left school at 13, in ninth grade. “I had to work with my mother,” she said. “I go with her and work in houses cleaning and doing dishes…. My mother keeps telling me to go back to ninth grade, but I say no. My mother is alone, and she needs my help. My father has a problem with his leg and he’s in pain and I don’t want him to work.” Tamana’s younger sister, 13, is studying and hopes to be a doctor.[208]

Child Labor in the Brick Industry

A particularly abusive form of child labor in Pakistan is brickmaking. While the government has made some efforts in recent years to prohibit child labor in brick kilns, the extreme poverty of families employed in the industry and lack of enforcement of labor laws continues to put many children at risk.[209] Despite laws aimed at ending bonded labor, families signing up to work at a brick kiln—who are often in desperate straits—are regularly given an advance of up to 100,000 to 200,000 rupees ($952-1,905) which they must repay through their labor. “The family is paid, not the individual,” an NGO worker assisting brick workers explained, saying families are paid weekly, earning seven to eight rupees ($0.7 to $0.8) per brick. He estimated that hundreds of thousands of children under the age of fourteen are making bricks in Punjab alone, where much of the industry is based, starting work as early as age four or five.[210]

Children grow up at the kilns, and often continue as adults. “They don’t have anything else—because they don’t have the opportunity to study or to learn new skills, this passes on from generation to generation,” the NGO worker said. “Government schools are very far from the kilns … and these children of brick workers won’t be accepted there. Teachers will treat them badly.” He said there are government funds to help children from brick kilns study, but estimated this assistance reaches five out of every 100 eligible children.[211]

Neither Yasmina, her mother, or her grandmother—who still works at the kiln at age 62, one of four generations of brick workers—nor any of Yasmina’s children ever went to school. Yasmina thinks she is about 32—she knows that she married at 14. She shares a one-room hut owned by the brick company, about 9 by 15 feet, with her husband and their nine children, ages 15, 12, 11, 9, 8, 7, 5, 3, and 2. “There are too many expenses in the school—I can’t make ends meet,” Yasmina said. Her eldest daughters, 15 and 12, are domestic workers, while the younger children stay at the kiln. “They do small work—they get me water, they help clean the bricks,” Yasmina said. “They’re not making bricks—they’re too small. But they clean the mud away, they pile the finished bricks.” Her husband added: “We put the kids to work so it gets done quickly.” The family makes about 1,000 bricks a day, earning around 900 rupees ($8.57), but receive half of that; the owner keeps the rest as rent and to recoup money he advanced them. One of Yasmina’s brothers, age 10, was the only child in the family to study, walking two kilometers to government school. But after school fees increased from 40 rupees ($0.38) to 200-300 rupees ($1.90-2.86) a month, the family could no longer afford it and he quit.[212]

Gender Discrimination and Harmful Social Norms

Patriarchy is the main problem.
—NGO gender expert, Lahore, July 2017.

Why don’t they let us study? They let the boys study, so they should let us study.
—Bina, 15, forced to leave school after fifth grade, Karachi, July 2017.

Some families do not believe that girls should study or believe that girls should not continue school beyond a certain age. In data comparing responses across 15 countries to the statement, “A university education is more important for men than for women,” Pakistan had the unhappy distinction of being the country in which there was the greatest increase in the number of people agreeing with that statement, in a comparison of data from 2001 and 2012.[213]

A teacher in Peshawar said after poverty, the most common reason for children dropping out of school was: “religious and cultural issues with sending girls out.” She explained: “After eighth grade, a lot of girls get married.… There are some girls who are so good in their studies and have so much potential that I feel very sad when they’re taken out.”[214]

“There’s a view that there’s no need to educate girls because they will be married,” an NGO gender expert said. “These views are changing, but it is taking a lot of time. Parents say boys and girls are equal, but in practice they don’t do this.”[215]

Humaira, 17, studied for only one year and her four sisters are similarly uneducated. Humaira said they were prevented from attending school by their grandfather. “He liked to say, ‘Education is not for girls,’” Humaira said. “My father wanted us to go to school, but my grandfather ruled this house, so my father couldn’t ask for us to go.”[216]

Attitudes regarding how desirable or acceptable it is for girls to study, especially as they grow older, vary significantly across different communities in Pakistan, and there is a range of attitudes in every community. In some areas, however, families violating cultural norms prohibiting girls from studying face pressure and hostility. “People talk,” Asiya, a mother of seven daughters explained. “The girls would cry to let them go to school, but their father says he can’t keep arguing with other people.”[217]

Farkhunda, 40, and her husband are Afghan immigrants living in Peshawar. They have six daughters and two sons. “It’s considered disgraceful to send girls to school,” in their community, Farkhunda explained. She said that if the family had the means to pay for education, they would permit their daughters to study until age 10, but no further.[218]

For some families, their willingness to send girls to school, especially as they grow older, hinges at least in part of whether girls study separately from boys and are taught by female teachers. Many schools are segregated by gender, through separate schools, separate shifts, or separate sections of the building. As students get older, schools are more likely to be segregated.[219]

When families violate norms in their community against girls’ education, the girls may face stigma. “When a girl steps out of the house, she doesn’t get proposal,” said Amina, about age 30, explaining that if her daughters attended school and as a result were seen walking in the neighborhood, it would harm their ability to get married. Amina’s daughter had a job as a domestic worker, but when she began menstruating her father decided that it was no longer permissible for her to do this work.[220]

Girls also face restrictions on their freedom of movement that undermine their access to education. “There is less mobility for girls—boys are allowed to go outside,” a gender expert with an NGO working with out of school children said.[221]

“I don’t have permission from the people in the house—my father,” Sima, 15, said, explaining why she left her studies after passing her grade 10 exams. Her mother explained, “In my in-laws’ household, they say if a girl studies more she gets ruined.” Sima attended school through eighth grade but was barred from continuing by her father. Her mother brought her textbooks for ninth and 10th grade, and she studied on her own, at home, so successfully that she took and passed the 10th grade matric exam. Her father has now put an end to her studies.[222]

Some girls are permitted to study only within strict limits. Batool, 13, was the first girl in her family to study and completed fifth grade. But when it was time for her to sit the exam for sixth grade, the exam center was at a different location than her primary school. “I could not sit my exam because my father did not give me permission to go to the center,” she said, “even though the school had made arrangements to take the girls there.” Batool said that her school headmistress asked to meet her father to try to convince him to let Batool sit the exam, but Batool’s father never went for the meeting.[223]

Girls are often removed from school as they approach or reach puberty. “My father said I was too big and then he asked me to leave,” said Salma, 15, who left school at age 13, during third grade. “People gossip among each other and say, ‘That girl is grown up now.’… My father said no, he said ‘Don’t study—girls aren’t supposed to study.’”[224]

Families taking girls out of school sometimes fear that girls will engage in romantic relationships. “Why are you educating your daughters?” Muskaan, who left school after seventh grade said her uncle demanded of her mother. “It corrupts them—they get bad.” Muskaan explained, “In his mindset a girl is going to have affairs if she studies and then will marry whoever she wants.” Muskaan said her uncle fought often with her mother about Muskaan and her sisters going to school. “Do you want your daughters to be westernized?” she said he demanded.[225]

Azra, 40, a mother of 11 children, including seven daughters, said girls in her family are not permitted to study beyond fifth grade. “Otherwise they talk to boys,” she said. “Then the sons and fathers argue with you, saying, ‘Look at what your daughter is up to.’… One can’t pick fights all the time—it’s not worth it.”[226]

Harmful gender norms create economic reasons for prioritizing boys’ education. Daughters who marry typically go to live with, and contribute to, their husband’s family, while sons are expected to remain with their parents—so sending sons to school is seen as a better investment in the family’s economic future. “If [parents] have land to inherit, it’s for the boy,” an NGO gender expert explained. “Girls don’t support their parents. They cost dowry and go to their in-laws. Parents think a boy should have land.”[227]

“He is a son, so he studies, and he can work,” said Zainab, 32, mother of four, explaining why she and her husband prioritized education for their oldest son. “If the daughter doesn’t work it’s not that important. We’re in a strained situation and we have to give priority to our son, so he gets the right kind of job.”[228]

Girls are also perceived as unlikely to find work, even if they are educated. “It’s stressful having so many daughters, because they don’t generate income,” said Anisa, who has seven living daughters and one son. “It would have been better to have more sons.”[229]

Some girls go to extraordinary lengths to seek education, over family objection. “My uncle said no, and I hide from him to come here,” said Aliya, who is 10 or 12 years old, who had started attending a free tuition center one or two months earlier, after she quit second grade. “I say I’m going to get something and then I take my notebook and come here. My mother and brother make up stories to send me out of the house. My uncle says: ‘Work at home, wash the clothes.’ He thinks girls shouldn’t study.”[230]

Afsha was 16 before she had a chance to study for the first time, when she learned about a free tuition center in a neighbor’s home. Afsha’s father has left the family; her brother stood in the way of her studying. “My brother said don’t go, and he still says don’t go but I come anyway…. In our household, girls don’t go to study. That’s just the way it is.”[231]

Sometimes views, or decision-makers, about girls’ education change within a family, affecting girls’ ability to study. For example, Mumtaz, 20, told Human Rights Watch that when she was young her uncles, who lived next door, said she shouldn’t study, but her father permitted her to go to school anyway. Now, however, several of her brothers are in their late teens, and they are becoming angry about their sisters studying and putting pressure on their parents to take the girls out of school.[232]

Zarafshan’s older sister was able to study through 10th grade, but by the time Zarafshan was 12, her uncle, who previously worked elsewhere, had opened a cycle shop next to their house. “He sits there, and whenever he sees anyone’s daughter going to school, he gets aggressive,” Zarafshan, 18, said. “My uncle stopped me going to school—he said I should stay home and do housework…. My father has to listen to him because he says, ‘If your daughter goes to school, so many boys will follow her, and people will talk about her and no one will marry her.’”[233]

Restrictions on the movement of women and girls are sometimes so severe that when girls leave school they become essentially homebound. “My eldest sister really wanted to study, but she was not allowed to, and now she doesn’t even leave the house,” Baheerah, age 12, told Human Rights Watch.[234]

Instead of studying, Azrah, 12, helped at home, including food shopping in the bazaar, but four months before Human Rights Watch interviewed her, she gave up that task. “Once we get bigger, we don’t go to the bazaar without a burqa, so I had to stop going,” she said. “Now I just sit at home all day. There’s no permission to go out at all now.”[235]

Some girls and parents called for more female teachers and more girls-only schools as a measure to make it possible for more girls to study. “The government should open all-girls’ schools close by with no men, not even male teachers or any staff,” said Zaneerah, 16, who left school at age 11 or 12, explaining what would have permitted her to continue studying. “Only the chowkidar [guard] outside can be a man.”[236]

Yasmina, 13, said she left school three or four years earlier, when she was in third grade, after the school closed because there was no female teacher. When the school re-opened after a year, with female teachers, Yasmina’s father said she was now too old to study.[237]

Negative perceptions about girls’ education may even affect where girls’ schools are established. Lily, 45, lives in a poor area of Lahore. Her daughter was in her second year of university at the time of the interview. When she was younger she had to travel by rickshaw to a private school every day as there is no government school nearby. “The government promised to make a school here—they even bought a plot of land,” Lily said. “But landowners in the area said that schools being set up had a negative foreign influence and would corrupt the girls.” Lily said her own in-laws were among those fighting to block to creation of the school. “They didn’t allow the school to be made. [The government] made it in a neighboring area instead.”[238]

Child Marriage

The educated daughter of today will become the mother of tomorrow.
—Beena, aunt of a 20-year-old in 11th grade, Karachi, July 2017.

Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of girls not attending school. In Pakistan, 21 percent of girls are married before age 18, and 3 percent marry before age 15.

Early marriage, in particular marrying younger than 18 can cause severe harm. Married children are more likely to leave school, live in poverty, and experience health problems. Girls who marry as children are more likely to experience domestic violence than women who marry later.[239]

Girls are sometimes seen as ready for marriage as soon as they mature physically. Ayesha arranged for her daughters to be engaged, at the same time, to two brothers who are their relatives, when the girls were ages 17 and 13. “Sixteen or 15 is a good age to get engaged,” said Ayesha. “This is the age when girls have their periods and are mature.”[240]

In some communities, child marriage is expected. “When daughters are not married, people start talking about them, so there’s that pressure,” said Saira, 30, who never attended school and married at age 17. Two of her three sisters married even younger.[241]

Aisha plans to get her 12-year-old daughter Bushrah engaged soon. Aisha married as a teen herself; she is about 30 years old and has six children, ages two to 15. Her oldest sons are now in ninth and seventh grade, but Bushrah left third grade when she was nine years old. Aisha told Human Rights Watch that it is normal for girls to marry at about age 15 in the area where the family lives, and that if girls wait later it becomes difficult for them to marry. Early marriage is a reason for parents to prioritize educating sons. “She belongs to someone else, will live in someone else’s house,” Aisha said about Bushrah, but sons, “will bring money home.”[242]

Some parents see child marriage as a chance to lighten their load. “If a girl goes to her own home [with her in-laws] it’s good, because then a burden is lifted off the parents,” said Faiza, mother of a son, 17, and a daughter, 20. Faiza’s daughter began studying at age 13, at a tuition center. After Faiza arranged a marriage for her at age 15 or 16, her in-laws forced her to stop studying.[243]

Marjan, who does not know her age, and is a mother of six children, would like her 15-year-old daughter to marry: “One less daughter is one less mouth to feed.”[244]

Child marriage is sometimes seen as preventing girls from engaging in romantic or sexual relationships outside marriage. “If she’s good to me I’ll get her married after age 20,” said Saira, 30, who married at age 17, about her eight-year-old daughter. “But if she rebels and sees men and has flings, I’m going to get her married quickly. In my area there is a government college. If she’s good, I’ll put her there and she can study higher.”[245]

Girls often have little or no say in the timing of their marriage, or the choice of spouse. Tamima, age 14, has been engaged to a cousin since she was 12; her mother is planning the wedding for when she is 15. When asked her daughter’s view about the marriage, Tamima’s mother Raheebah replied, “What is she going to say? What does she know?” Tamima began studying at age 13 in a tuition center, but this will end once she marries. “That’s our decision what she does now, but after she marries it’s her in-laws’ decision,” explained Raheebah. “If girls work there’s no one to take care of the house and the children…. All five fingers are not equal.”[246]

Dinah was engaged at age 15 and married at age 17. She grew up in a compound where seven related families lived. Some girls in the compound studied until age 10 or 12, but the girls in Dinah’s family did not study because they were poorer, as their father had intermittent work as a day laborer. About her marriage, she said: “We had no part in that decision. My mother and grandmother wanted it. We have no decision power—neither girls nor boys.”[247]

Staying in school longer can protect girls from marrying young. “They get married after they are done with schooling,” said Sumbul, 25, the aunt of two teenage girls struggling to stay in school. “Someone in school wants to complete their schooling and then marry.”[248]

Zarmina, 20, married at 16, and has two children. She said she would have married later had she not been forced out of school when her father became blind and could not work. “If you’re studying, you keep going,” she said. “You have to finish your studies and you don’t marry.” Instead, when her father’s disability worsened her mother went to work as a maid, but the family faced pressure to marry their daughters off:

My mother arranged our marriages because people started telling her, ‘You should get them married.’ My parents felt sad that they had to get me married at such a young age, but they had to so people wouldn’t say things. I felt sad, and I felt weird to be married at such a young age. But people in this area gossip and raise suspicions. My father said, ‘I can’t see so I can’t protect you, so I should get my daughters married quickly.’ He didn’t want his daughters to be harassed.[249]

Some in-laws prefer a young daughter-in-law. “My mother-in-law hurried it up—I was 11 when I married,” said Ayesha, 18, who married a cousin. “I was engaged one week and married the next week.” Ayesha never studied; her younger sister was studying, she was forced to drop out and take over the housework when Ayesha married. Three years later, Ayesha fled back to her parents. “It wasn’t a nice place—there was constant bickering and fighting,” she said. “I liked the boy—he is a hard worker—but the mother-in-law is the one creating problems.” Ayesha longed to study, but her in-laws didn’t allow her to leave the house at all. After leaving her husband, she at last found a way to study, in a madrasa, studying the Quran and Urdu. “I’m not going back [to my husband] ever,” Ayesha said.[250]

After marriage, girls often leave school. Some future in-laws agree to allow girls to continue studying, but such promises are often broken. “I would have kept studying if this engagement hadn’t come,” said Saba, married at 16. She had completed 10th grade when she married. Saba said before she married her in-laws agreed she could continue studying: “They said you can do whatever you want.” But as soon as she married both they and her husband forbid her from attending school.[251]

Kanwal, 24, had just taken her tenth-grade exam and was about 16 years old when her parents married her to her cousin. She agreed to marry because her parents and in-laws promised that she could continue studying. When she received her exam results she found that she had passed everything except math and planned to retake the math exam—but at that point her in-laws said they wouldn’t allow her to study any more. She argued with them, but to no avail. “And then I got pregnant,” said Kanwal, who now has three daughters. She said her husband gambles and rarely works, leaving her financially dependent on her parents. He also began beating her as soon as they married, and one beating was so severe that she was hospitalized for brain damage. “I felt bad—I wanted to study, to write,” Kanwal said. “I would have a job—I would be of use and feel useful. I could work in a bank…. Sometimes I feel women aren’t treated well in this society.”[252]

Boys are also sometimes forced into child marriage. Layla, 50, said her oldest son drowned six months after marrying, when he and his wife were in their early 20s. Layla’s second son had died of a fever as a child. Her third son was 15 or 16 years old at the time and had recently left school. The family decided that he should marry his brother’s widow. After marrying, the couple had five daughters, ages three to 14 at the time of the interview, none of whom study because their father is unemployed due to substance abuse. “He said he started doing drugs because he didn’t want to get married,” Layla said.[253]

It is common in many communities for there to be a payment from one family to the other at the time of a marriage. Both dowry (payment by the bride’s family to the groom’s family) and bride price (payment by the groom’s family to the bride’s family) are practiced, in different communities.[254] These payments can consist of jewelry, clothing, household goods, and cars or motorcycles, as well as cash. The cost of a dowry or bride price is often a crippling expense for poor families already struggling to get by.[255] The financial pressure of trying to reduce or avoid dowry or needing to receive bride price can induce families to accept a marriage proposal that comes earlier than they would have chosen.

Some mothers who married young fight to delay their daughters’ marriages. Zunaisha, 35, a mother of nine, married at age 12. Her older daughters were 16 and 15 years old when Human Rights Watch interviewed Zunaisha and were not engaged or married. Zunaisha hopes to delay their marriages until they are 20. “I want them to enjoy their lives and spend as much time with their parents as they can,” she said.[256] 

“I’m going to be very careful in selecting a husband for my daughter,” said Shaista, 32, who left school during 8th grade and married at age 14, after her grandparents, who she lived with and cared for became too ill to support her. “For me a mistake was made. I got stuck and I drowned. But I won’t let that happen to her.” Shaista’s daughter has passed her 10th grade exam, but her father has said she may not study further.[257]

Insecurity on the Way to and in Schools

There’s a lot of fear in parents’ minds of sending their daughters outside.
—Baheerah, 12, who never attended school, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

Many families and girls cited security problems as barriers to girls studying, including sexual harassment, kidnapping, crime, conflict, and attacks on education. Insecurity has a disproportionate impact on girls because girls are often targeted and parents are often less willing to have girls leave the home or make long journeys to school in insecure conditions than boys.[258] Widespread impunity for violence against women and girls heightens parents’ fears.

Some parents and children said insecurity in their communities had worsened in recent years, meaning younger children had less access to education than their older siblings. “These are bad times,” said Shaista, 32, mother of four daughters and three sons, ages three to 18, who lives in a poor area of Karachi. “Before, 20 years ago, things were nice, but the environment now is such that I don’t even want to let my small girl out of the house. There is drug addiction and alcoholism and then when your daughter steps out boys will whistle at her. So, to protect your honor you won’t send your daughter out.”[259]

Families worry about terrorist attacks, but they also worry about busy roads, and the long distance many girls must travel to school can increase risks. Hafsa, 16, thinks she was five or six years old on the day she fell into an open sewage ditch on her way to her school which was an hour-long walk away. That was her last day of school. “After my fall, I just didn’t feel like going back,” she said. “But it wasn’t just that—the distance was just too much. Many years later I regretted leaving, but I was too old to start all over.”[260]

“We can’t walk alone because of boys selling drugs and big trucks going by,” said Layla, 50, explaining why the school 30 to 40-minute walk away is not accessible to her family.[261]

Conflict and Attacks on Education

Life and death is in God’s hands. Of course, people here feel some fear. Anyone would be afraid. We can take precautions, but if it’s fate, it’s fate.
—Zulekha, mother of seven, living in an area of Quetta known for insecurity, Quetta, January 2018.

Many parts of Pakistan are facing escalating levels of violence related to insurgency, and ethnic and religious conflict. In the areas most affected, this is having a devastating impact of girls’ access to education. Fawzia, 34, in Peshawar, is a mother of four girls and one boy. She said she is afraid for her children when they go to school. “Why would there not be fear?” she said. “Fear is present 24/7. From the time the child steps out of the house till they return home, the fear is persistent.” Fawzia said if she could, she would teach her children at home. She described a bombing in the family’s church, and other attacks that followed. “Children died in that blast, and nothing changed.”[262]

Parveen sends four of her daughters to a madrasa to study, because it is more affordable than schools. She said there were two bomb blasts near the madrasa three or four years earlier, but no one was killed or injured. “We do worry, but we still send them,” she said.[263]

Insecurity has long-term consequences. “There was a lot of shooting—for a whole week, constant firing,” said Fazeelah, 35, explaining why she took her oldest child, a son, out of school, and kept her other six children, including four daughters, home. The worst of the violence took place about 10 years earlier, but after missing school during that period, the children were never able to go to school.”[264]

Layla, 50, said the government school near her home closed permanently after 10 to 12 bodies were found there during ethnic conflict in the neighborhood in 2005. Layla said ethnic tensions have eased, but the area remains insecure, especially for women. “The situation is better, and that ethnic fear is gone, but there is still fear of harassment by boys, and that’s worse now,” she said. “Before people hid this harassment more—now they do it more openly.” She said lingering ethnic tension makes it harder to fight back against harassment. “The school is a mix of Pakhtuns and Muhajirs so we’re afraid if anyone says anything to one of the boys another ethnic conflict could start depending on who he is, so it’s better just not to send girls—and studies there aren’t very good anyway.”[265]

A teacher in Balochistan said that many of her students manage to finish high school, but to continue to university they must travel through areas seen as unsafe for people from their ethnic group, which deters many from continuing.[266]

Ethnic conflict often spills into schools. Basma, 12, was moved by her parents from government school to private school, even though they struggled to afford private fees, in part because of fighting in the government school between Hindu and Muslim students. Basma’s foot was fractured during one eruption of violence. “I feel very hurt that they hurt my daughter,” Basma’s mother Najma, said.[267]

Attacks on Education and Government Responses

The government is nothing. They just fill their own stomachs. There are bomb blasts in schools—children die all the time. If they can’t take care of schools, what can they do?
Farzana, age 25-30, mother of five daughters and one son, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

One aspect of insecurity in Pakistan has been targeted attacks against students, teachers, and schools.[268] The most lethal attack on education in recent years in Pakistan was the December 16, 2014, attack by armed militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar city, killing 145 people, almost all of them children.[269]

This attack was far from isolated, however. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) describes Pakistan as a country heavily affected by attacks on education.[270] According to GCPEA, between 2013 and 2017, “armed non-state groups and unknown parties” reportedly attacked hundreds of schools, across every province, typically using explosive devices, killing several hundred students and teachers, and damaging and destroying infrastructure.[271] One-third of these attacks targeted girls and women and were “aimed at repressing or stopping the learning or teaching of girls and women.”[272] In August 2018, alleged militants attacked and burned down at least 12 schools in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan.[273] At least half were girls’ schools.[274]

The Army Public School attack had ripple effects as many parents became more concerned about security. Abda, 51, lives with her husband, four of her six children, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren, in Peshawar. She said that after the Army Public School attack, the children in the family were afraid to go to school and her husband wanted to take all the children out of school for safety reasons, but Abda insisted on keeping them in school.[275]

Zunaisha, 35, a mother of nine in Peshawar said when she discussed the possibility of several daughters going to school they said they were afraid of bomb blasts. At the time of the interview, all her children were out of education or studying in a madrasa.[276]

Naira worries about her teenage daughter, a college student in Quetta. Naira described their lives in Quetta as being like a prison, saying targeted attacks against members of the Hazara community are so pervasive that girls from other ethnic groups sometimes beg Hazara girls not travel with them or stand close to them on public transportation.[277]

An activist in Balochistan said he believed driving Hazara students out of education was an objective for sectarian groups. “They targeted us because we were progressing—in the military, in sports, education,” he said. “We always achieved the highest marks at Balochistan’s various universities. Now there are only a handful of [Hazara] children who go to Balochistan University. This was a concentrated campaign to keep us down.”[278]

“There should be security for girls, so parents are not afraid of sending girls to school,” said Marzia, who helps run an informal school in her family’s home. “There should be security outside the school. I went to an army school, and I felt safe because no one could go inside without a CNIC [national identification card]. There was a checkpoint. But this doesn’t exist at government schools.”[279]

After the Army Public School attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a 20-point National Action Plan to address the threat from terrorism, but none of the 20 points pertained to protection of educational institutions.[280] Instead, in most cases, the responsibility for enhancing and maintaining security has been passed to school authorities. This has sometimes led to increased hardship and chaos. Some schools organized traumatic security drills, while others armed teachers and students.[281]

Sexual Harassment

Many girls encountered sexual harassment on the way to school. “In this place, it’s not the type of area [where you can go to school]. It’s not a good area. When you walk out, the boys stare at you and tease you…. I can’t go to school because of the environment outside,” said Azeeba, 11, who studied for the first time when an NGO opened a school near her home. When it closed due to lack of funds two years later, her education was over. She was not allowed to go to the nearby government school as men are gambling in that area. “If someone small goes out, no one looks at them. But if you’re a little grown people stare, and boys tease you,” Azeeba said.[282]

Some girls said men and boys harass them outside their school. “Lots of girls from this area go to the government school,” said Paveena, 13. “But men hang around the there…. They speak crudely, curse, sometimes they throw stones at you. I took my cousin to school once, and this man started cursing me. This is just how it is in Quetta—it happens to all girls.” Paveena said that dressing modestly, in a chaddar [concealing robe and head covering], did nothing to help.[283]

“They walk you halfway home,” said Mumtaz, 20, about the boys at a nearby school, complaining that they follow girls and harass them.[284]

When the distance to school is long, it intensifies fears of sexual harassment. “It takes one hour to walk to the nearest school, and it’s not a nice area,” said Samika, 12. “You know what boys can be like. They bother you. It’s not nice for girls to be walking alone.”[285]

Sidra was 13 and in fifth grade when her family returned from Karachi to Quetta. In Quetta, Sidra tried to re-enroll in in the nearest government girls’ school, a long walk from her home. “I went one day with a group of girls,” she explained. “The men stare, they say things to you. Sometimes they hurl abusive words at you—bad words.” That was two years earlier, and she decided never to go back. “If there’s a school made close by, I’ll go.” She works instead, earning 150 rupees each ($1.43) for stitching suits of clothing.[286]

“In private schools we try to stop it,” a private school headmaster said, explaining that sexual harassment would hurt his school’s business. “I make complaints to the police regarding specific boys. Since then no one bothered my female students in this street. Before boys used to hang out in this street.”[287]

Other said police demonstrate little willingness to intervene to try to end harassment of girls. “In front of our house is a store owner who has a drinking problem and beats his wife and harasses my 13-year-old sister and says he’s going to marry her,” said Tamana, 15. “The whole village [neighborhood] is very upset about him. We complained to the police, but he paid them off.” Tamana, who left school at 13, said that their mother wants her younger sister to leave school because of the harassment by the neighbor.[288]

Girls face security risks on the way to school, but they also, too often, face insecurity at school. Interviewees described this as primarily a problem at government schools; private schools have a greater incentive to fix any conditions that could lead to them losing students. Insecurity for girls often takes the form of sexual harassment by male students.

“I studied to eighth grade, but then I stopped because my brothers told me to because there were these boys who were very lewd to me,” said Rabiya, 23. She left government school at around age 11 and missed several years of school before her mother managed to pay for private school. She still lives near the government school, and says over the intervening years, it became worse. “The girls are afraid,” she said. “Girls are on one side of the school and boys on the other, but there is one gate. These boys sit outside and bother them. The boys throw their phone numbers at the girls.” Rabiya said another concern was that low walls at the school failed to protect girls from boys in the neighborhood seeking to harass them. She described the private school she later attended as feeling much more secure, with parents required to pick up their children, ID cards required for entering, and separate shifts for boys and girls.[289]

Parents sometimes have a lower tolerance for harassment than their daughters. Salima, 13, had quit school a few days earlier. “The boys in the school used to bother me—they would throw rulers and pencils at me,” she said. “My mother told me to leave because of the boys bothering me. I want to study but my mother won’t let me.”[290]

When security measures are in place, they are often ineffective. “The school guard is old and doesn’t have any teeth—what can he do?” said Rabiya, 23, about the government school she left. “He lives at the school, so he is scared for himself…. He won’t say anything to the boys, who are much stronger.”[291]

Others echoed the view that security measures are better at private schools. Fawzia, 34, recently removed her 16-year-old daughter from government school and now plans to send her to private school. “They have cameras and keep a check on all the students who come and enter and leave the premises. They take responsibility for the children.”[292]

Pakistan’s ethnic and religious tensions sometimes result in children feeling unsafe at school. Basma, 12, left government school because of fighting between Muslim and Hindu students.[293] Priya, 17, left school after eighth grade, after three years of bullying by other girls. “In the entire school, I was the only Hindu,” she said. “They just wanted me out—like, ‘Why is this Hindu girl here?’ I think [I was bullied] because I was alone.”[294]

Harmful gender norms about older girls being seen in public can create heightened sensitivity to harassment. Samah, 19, was forced by her four brothers to leave school after class 10, because they wouldn’t permit her to travel further to a government college. “None of my brothers are okay with me studying,” she said:

Harassment happens—you know what our society is like. What my brothers are saying is you can study privately with a tutor who comes over [to our house], but a girl can’t walk alone because things are bad. Men look at you funny, they stare. Sometimes they hoot or whistle. My brothers are afraid men would do something—or just my being seen is a problem. They don’t like other men looking at their sister. It does bother me that men are like this, but I would still study [if I could]. I really want to study—I wanted to be a doctor.

Samah said her brothers would only permit her to study if her mother escorted her to and from school, but there is no government college close enough to their home to make that feasible. She has also been unable to find tutors that will come to her home. She is now working as a tailor instead. Even paying for a rickshaw or car with her wages would not allow her to go back to school, she said. “My brothers still have an issue if I’m in a car or a rickshaw…. Even though we wear the veil [niqab—face covering] there is still that insecurity.”[295]

Harmful gender norms mean that when girls are sexually harassed, the consequence is often that their movement is restricted, pushing them out of school. “If a girl is being sexually harassed on the way to school, often she won’t tell her parents, because they will take her out of school if they know,” a researcher on education said. “Kids, especially girls, are afraid of their parents—afraid that if anything happens to them, even if it’s not their fault, then they’ll be taken out of school.”[296]

Girls, and their families, are sometimes seen as at fault when they are the target of harassment. “My father doesn’t allow us, because we’re girls, to go out to school, because boys will harass us, and people will see and will say, ‘They were harassed on the street,’” said Humaira, 17, one of five sisters. “It’s about our honor—even though we wear abayas [long figure concealing garments]. We’ve been living here for so many years, so every boy knows what girls live in this house.” Humaira said since she finished studying at madrasa three years earlier, she leaves the house only for specific reasons—such as a doctor’s appointment or a visit to a relative—every month or two.[297]

Just the fear of harassment sometimes leads to families keeping girls home. Aisha, a mother of one daughter and five sons said that one reason the family removed her daughter from school after third grade was concern about “what people will say if, for example, she’s seen in a ‘non-respectable’ place.” When asked what “non-respectable” places are, she said her husband raised this concern and she does not know as she does not go outside herself. Aisha’s husband Mubashir said he had heard of an incident of a girl being harassed near the local madrasa, and that: “There are private schools here where boys just hang outside and throw their phone numbers at girls.”[298]

Harassers also sometimes target teachers. A teacher in Balochistan said that when she was posted to a new school at first her husband dropped her off every day on his motorcycle. But he and she encountered harassment from young men from the community who did not like a strange man coming to their area. She began taking shared transport instead, which ended the harassment, but created a financial burden, costing 4,000 rupees a month ($38) which was over 20 percent of her salary.[299]

Crime

I used to be interested in studying, but that interest died.
—Mahmuda, 22, left school in fifth grade due to gang violence in her neighborhood, Karachi, July 2017.

When violence happens in a school or in a neighborhood, it has long term consequences for girls’ education. Parizad, 12, said one reason she left school in Karachi was because several children at that school, including a girl in her class, were abducted from the school and murdered. Parizad and her brother left school, in part because of fear of being murdered. “We used to feel very scared,” she said.[300]

Anisa’s oldest son was killed in a local dispute in the family’s village a year before Human Rights Watch interviewed her. Fearing that their remaining son might also be targeted, the family abruptly left the village. Anisa’s five youngest daughters can no longer study as there is no nearby school in their new neighborhood, and the family feels unsafe there.[301]

Several families in a Karachi neighborhood said the area had experienced such high levels of gang violence several years earlier that many girls’ education was disrupted, and some families had fled the area. “We left school because the environment wasn’t good, the times weren’t good,” said Mahmuda, 22, explaining why she quit school after fifth grade. “It was the time of gang violence, so it was difficult to go back and forth to school…. We used to feel scared…. Now everything is fine and there’s no fear, but that age to study is gone. What would we learn now?... Imagine if it had been fine before—we could have studied and had different jobs.” Mahmuda, her mother, and her younger sister are domestic workers.[302]

Rabiya, 23, said a classmate of hers disappeared and her body was found two days later at their government school. “We saw it with our own eyes,” she said. “We saw bruises all over her arms.” Rabiya was around 11 at the time. “My brothers said, ‘These are uncertain times,’ so they took me out,” she said. Over ten years later, the family refuses to send children to that school. In the home where Rabiya and her extended family live, there are ten children. Some study at private school—if their parents can pay the fees; the rest do not study. The oldest child is a 14-year-old girl who left school after fifth grade. Rabiya said the girl has no one to pay fees since her mother died and her father left to work in Malaysia and was never heard from again. “We can’t send her to the government school and we can’t afford the private school. We’re still scared of that government school.”[303]

Layla, 50, lives nearby. She described the same murder and said several of her children quit school afterwards, including her oldest living son. “He said he didn’t feel safe,” she said. The family removed their daughter who was studying there: “They said girls in this school disappear,” Layla explained. Another son wanted to stay at the school. “We let him study at the government school in spite of the murder because he was a boy.”[304]

Fear of Kidnapping

Because the area was so desolate, if someone were to kidnap or assault me, no one would be able to find me.
—Zaneerah, 16, describing the walk to the school she dropped out of, Peshawar, August 2017.

Families in particularly fear kidnapping, especially when girls face long walks to school. It is difficult to know the exact number of kidnappings each year, due to inconsistencies in how figures are collected, but media reports suggest a significant and growing problem, and fuel fears.[305]

Alishba, 29, a mother of seven, said that she and her husband took their oldest daughters out of school at ages seven and eight because the walk to school took the girls past a field where drug users congregated, and they feared someone would “take them away.” Alishba said if they could have afforded a rickshaw they would have let them continue, but the cost was prohibitive. The girls now study part-time at a madrasa closer to their home.[306]

This fear is heightened when girls are older and seen as at greater risk of sexual assault. Kamila is a mother of six children, including four adolescent girls. She said that the reason her daughters cannot attend school is because Kamila’s husband, the girls’ father, “is afraid someone will steal them if they step out of the house.”[307]

The distinction between fear of girls being kidnapped and them engaging in a romantic relationship are sometimes blurred. “They’re pretty, so we’re afraid they will be taken,” said Asiya, a mother of eight, using a term that can mean both kidnapped and wooed, explaining why her older daughters left school, at ages 16 and 12. “If someone dishonors one of my daughters, it’s a matter of dishonor for my remaining daughters as well.” She said one daughter studied until 16 while the other had to leave at 12 because the 12-year-old had physically developed early. Asiya said that her next two daughters, ages 12 and 13, would leave school soon for the same reason.[308]

 

IV. Pakistan’s Obligations under Domestic and International Law

The right to non-discrimination and equality between men and women are enshrined in numerous human rights treaties and Pakistan domestic law. Non-discrimination is essential for ensuring that all children, including girls, have full access to education.

Right to Education

Education is a basic right enshrined in various international treaties ratified by Pakistan, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).[309]

The Constitution of Pakistan, when adopted in 1973, contained a section under the non-enforceable “principles of state policy” that provided, “The State shall … remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within [the] minimum possible period.”[310]

In 2010 the 18th Amendment introduced article 25-A in the section containing judicially enforceable “fundamental rights,” which states that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”[311]

Article 25-A has been transposed into the local laws of different federal units of Pakistan via the Right to Free and 2012 Compulsory Education Act (for Islamabad), the 2013 Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, the 2014 Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, and the 2014 Balochistan Compulsory Education Act. However, requisite legislation for KP, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir has yet to be drafted.

Pakistan became a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which includes an obligation to ensure women equal rights with men, including in the field of education.[312]

The right to education entails state obligations of both an immediate and progressive kind. According to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the expert body that interprets the ICESCR and provides guidance to states in their efforts to implement it, governments should take steps towards fulfilling the rights in the ICESCR that are “deliberate, concrete and targeted as clearly as possible towards meeting the obligations.” The committee has also stressed that the ICESCR imposes an obligation to “move as expeditiously and effectively as possible towards that goal.”[313]

Under international human rights law, everyone has a right to free, compulsory, primary education, free from discrimination.[314] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that the right to fundamental education extends to all those who have not yet satisfied their “basic learning needs.”[315]

International law also provides that secondary education shall be generally available and accessible to all without discrimination. The right to secondary education includes “the completion of basic education and consolidation of the foundations for life-long learning and human development.”[316] It also includes the right to vocational and technical training.[317]

Human Rights Watch believes governments should take immediate measures to ensure that secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge. They should also encourage and intensify “fundamental education” for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of primary (or basic) education.[318]

In implementing their obligations on education, governments should be guided by four essential criteria: availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability. Education should be available throughout the country, including by guaranteeing adequate and quality school infrastructure, and accessible to everyone on an equal basis. Moreover, the form and substance of education should be of acceptable quality and meet minimum educational standards, and the education provided should adapt to the needs of students with diverse social and cultural settings.[319]

Governments should ensure that functioning educational institutions and programs are sufficiently available within their jurisdiction. Functioning education institutions should include buildings, sanitation facilities for both sexes, safe drinking water, trained teachers receiving domestically competitive salaries, teaching materials, and, where possible, facilities such as a library, computer facilities and information technology.[320]

Non-Discrimination in Education

Governments should guarantee equality in access to education as well as education free from discrimination. According to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, discrimination constitutes “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference or other differential treatment that is directly or indirectly based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination and which has the intention or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise [of rights] on an equal footing.”[321]

In addition to removing any forms of direct discrimination against students, governments should also ensure indirect discrimination does not occur because of laws, policies, or practices that may have the effect of disproportionately impacting on the right to education of children who require further accommodation, or whose circumstances may not be the same as those of the majority school population.[322]

CEDAW addresses the right to non-discrimination in all spheres. Article 1 of CEDAW defines "discrimination against women" as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women.[323]

Governments also have a positive obligation to remedy abuses that emanate from social and cultural practices. CEDAW requires that states “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices which constitute discrimination against women.”[324] It obligates states to “refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation,” and to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise.” CEDAW requires governments: 

To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.[325]

International human rights law also calls upon governments address the legal and social subordination women and girls face in their families, provisions violated by Pakistan’s tolerance of a disproportionate number of girls being excluded from school.

Quality of Education

It is widely acknowledged that any meaningful effort to realize the right to education should make the quality of such education a core priority. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has maintained that beyond their access obligations, governments need to ensure that the form and substance of education, including curricula and teaching methods, are “acceptable” to students. The committee stated that acceptability hinges on a range of different factors, including the notion that education should be of “good quality.”[326] The aim is to ensure that “no child leaves school without being equipped to face the challenges that he or she can expect to be confronted with in life.”[327] According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, an education of good quality “requires a focus on the quality of the learning environment, of teaching and learning processes and materials, and of learning outputs.”[328]

The state must provide education “on the basis of equal opportunity,” “without discrimination of any kind irrespective of the child's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.”[329] In addition, the guarantees of equality before the law and the equal protection of law prevent a government from arbitrarily making distinctions among classes of persons in promulgating and enforcing its laws. A state will violate the prohibition on discrimination in education both with direct action, such as introducing or failing to repeal discriminatory laws, as well as when it fails to take measures “which address de facto educational discrimination.”[330] States must ensure that their domestic legal systems provide “appropriate means of redress, or remedies … to any aggrieved individual or groups,” including judicial remedies.[331]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated: “The prohibition against discrimination enshrined in article 2 (2) of the [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] is subject to neither progressive realization nor the availability of resources; it applies fully and immediately to all aspects of education and encompasses all internationally prohibited grounds of discrimination.”[332]

Protection from Child Marriage and Child Labor

Child marriage—a major barrier to education for girls in Pakistan—is recognized under international law as a human rights violation. Since the vast majority of those subjected to child marriage are girls, it is considered a form of gender-based discrimination, and it violates other human rights principles. The CRC does not explicitly address child marriage. However, child marriage is viewed as incompatible with a number of the articles in the convention. CEDAW states explicitly that the marriage or betrothal of a child should have no legal effect.[333]

There is an evolving consensus in international law that 18 should be the minimum age for marriage, and Human Rights Watch calls on all governments to set the minimum age for marriage at 18. The committees that interpret the CRC and CEDAW have each recommended that 18 be the minimum age for marriage for boys and girls, regardless of parental consent.[334] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has taken a clear position on 18 as the minimum age for marriage, regardless of parental consent, and repeatedly addressed the need for countries to establish a definition of a child in all domestic legislation that is consistent with the provisions of the CRC.[335] These committees have pointed to the importance of delaying marriage to protect young girls from the negative health implications of early marriage such as early pregnancy and childbirth and to ensure that girls complete their education.[336] The CEDAW committee has noted that child marriage and early pregnancy impede girls’ rights to education, and are a primary cause of school drop-out for girls.[337]

In Pakistan, laws regarding the minimum age of marriage vary from province to province. Some provinces have reformed their legislation to reduce child marriage, but in 2017, the Senate rejected national legislation that would have raised the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18.[338]

The CRC also obligates governments to protect children from economic exploitation, and from performing work that is hazardous, interferes with a child’s education, or is harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development.[339] The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention describe what types of work amount to child labor, depending on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the impact on education, and other factors.[340]

Pakistan’s constitution states: “No child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.”[341]

Protection from Violence, including Corporal Punishment and Cruel and Degrading Forms of Punishment

Under international law, governments should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, and maltreatment.[342] The CRC obligates governments to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity.”[343] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has defined corporal or physical punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”[344]

The international prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim.[345] Children and pupils in teaching institutions should be protected from corporal punishment, “including excessive chastisement ordered as … an educative or disciplinary measure.”[346]

 

Recommendations

To the Federal Government of Pakistan

  • Increase expenditure on and resources available for education to bring the level of education funding up to standards recommended by UNESCO to enable Pakistan to fulfill its obligations on education.
  • Monitor expenditure of education funds at the provincial level and ensure full use of funds.
  • Strengthen the federal government’s role in assisting and advising provincial governments in their provision of education, with the goal of removing disparities between provinces, ensuring universal access to free primary and secondary education across all parts of the country, and removing gender disparities in all provinces.
  • Work with provincial governments to improve the quality of government schools and to strengthen quality assurance of private schools.
  • Assist provinces to reform the curriculum in all parts of the country based on international best practices and through a consultative process with education experts and national stakeholders.
  • Ensure that the curriculum is gender-sensitive and includes comprehensive sexuality education.
  • Once high-quality curricula are in place, private schools and madrasas teaching non-religious subjects should be required to use the government curriculum.
  • Encourage continued international donor assistance for education from foreign donors, and work with donors to ensure that aid to the education sector goes where it is most needed.
  • Support efforts to develop sustainable solutions to increase girls’ participation in education, including by developing strategies to develop and expand innovative models such as community-based classes in remote areas, schools targeting disadvantaged populations, and schools designed for children who combine education and work.
  • Ensure anti-corruption efforts include a strong focus on fighting corruption within the education sector.
  • Strengthen oversight of provincial education systems specifically regarding their progress toward ensuring that all girls complete primary and secondary education, by taking steps to ensure that provinces provide accurate data on girls’ education, monitoring enrolment and attendance by girls, and setting specific targets in each province toward achieving parity between girls and boys and universal primary and secondary education for girls and boys.
  • Work with provincial governments to increase enforcement of laws prohibiting child labor.
  • Raise the national minimum age of marriage to 18 with no exceptions and develop and implement a national action plan to end child marriage, with the goal of ending all child marriage by 2030, as per Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3.
  • Ensure that students deprived of their schools because of hostilities or threats, their schools need to be repaired or reconstructed, or the use of their school for military purposes, are promptly provided access to alternative educational facilities in their vicinity.
  • Endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, committing to take concrete measures to deter the military use of schools by armed forces and armed groups, and to use as a minimum standard the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
  • Develop a comprehensive policy for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack and military use.
  • Address and remedy the disproportionate harm to girls’ access to education because of hostilities and military use of schools. The government should adopt measures to assist girls who have been denied or risk losing access to education.
  • In any negotiations with insurgent groups, make it a priority to negotiate for access to education for all children, including girls, in insurgent-controlled and contested areas of the country.

To Provincial Governments

  • Direct the provincial education authority to make girls’ education a priority within the education budget, in regard to construction and rehabilitation of schools, training and recruitment of female teachers, and provision of supplies, to address the imbalance between the participation of girls and boys in education.
  • Monitor expenditure of education funds and ensure that all funds are used.
  • Strengthen enforcement of anti-child labour laws.
  • Instruct police officials at the provincial and district level to ensure that police at the community level work with schools to ensure the safety of students, including monitoring potential threats to schools, students and teachers, and working to prevent harassment and abuse of students, especially girls.
  • Work with education authorities to collect reliable data on military use of schools by both government security forces and non-government armed groups. Data should include the names and locations of the educational institutions being used; the purpose for which they are being used; the duration of the use; the specific security force unit or armed group making use of the school; the enrollment prior to use and attendance during use; impact on students unable to attend school; actions taken by the authorities to end military use of the school; and the damages sustained during the military use of the school. Where relevant data should be disaggregated by gender to capture any disproportionate impact on girls.

To Provincial Education Authorities

Increase the Availability of Government Schools

  • Rehabilitate, build, and establish new schools, especially for girls.
  • Until government schools are universally available, develop a program for providing scholarships to good-quality private schools for girls living in areas not served by government schools.
  • In consultation with school officials, students, communities, and relevant local government officials, provide free or affordable transport for students who would need to travel long distances or through difficult environments to get to a government school.
  • Introduce a partial or fully subsidized transport program for students in urban areas to travel to government schools.

Increase Girls’ Participation in Education

  • Ensure universal access to free primary and secondary education, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 4, including by:
    • Abolishing all tuition, registration and exam fees at government schools;
    • Providing all needed school supplies to all students, including notebooks, pens, pencils, and a book bag;
    • Abolishing uniform requirements, or providing uniforms at no cost to students;
    • Reforming the system for providing textbooks, to ensure that every student receives free use of a full set of textbooks in a timely manner each school year.
  • Instruct all principals to work with school staff to do outreach in the catchment area for each school, identifying out-of-school children and working with families to convince them to send their children to school.
  • Develop and ensure compliance with guidelines that prohibit schools from excluding students based on their lack of identification or birth certificate.
  • Require schools to permit children to enroll at any point in the school year.
  • Ensure that every school has an active school management committee, and that the staff of the school are working with the committee to identify and reach out-of-school children in the community.
  • Explore options for increasing attendance by girls from poor families through scholarships, food distribution or meal programs at girls’ schools.
  • Develop and implement a plan to increase access to alternative forms of education for children and adults who have been unable to study during their school-age years.

Improve Retention of Girls in School

  • Adopt mechanisms to ensure all schools regularly monitor students who are out of school for prolonged periods of time or drop out of school altogether and reach out to determine the reasons for non-attendance and seek to re-engage the student in school.
  • Instruct each principal of a school for girls to work with police in the area to identify locations where girls walking to school face harassment or threats and enlist police and community leaders in preventing such threats to their safety and taking quick action when girls encounter them.
  • Take steps to help ensure cases of harassment and threats are reported to appropriate enforcement authorities, including police, and that cases are duly investigated and appropriately prosecuted.
  • Require each school to develop a security plan in consultation with students and parents, with each plan for a mixed or girls’ school giving special attention to security issues of concern to girls including sexual harassment.
  • Develop guidelines for teachers and principals on monitoring the student body for girls at risk of child marriage. When girls are identified as being at risk, school staff should reach out to the family to discourage the marriage and to keep the girl in school.
  • When female students marry, school staff should advocate with the girl’s family and in-laws to convince them to allow her to continue her studies. Married girls should be both permitted and encouraged to continue their studies, including during pregnancy and if they have children, and schools should where possible provide childcare assistance.
  • Develop a plan to expand access to middle and high school for girls through the government education system, including establishment of new schools and colleges and, where possible, adding additional grades to existing schools.

Improve the Quality of Education

  • Strengthen the system for monitoring and quality assurance of all schools, not only for government schools but also private schools and madrasas.
  • Hire and deploy more qualified teachers as needed.
  • Ensure adequate qualification requirements are in place and applied for teachers, and provided domestically competitive salaries, commensurate with their roles, and where necessary provide financial incentives to encourage teachers, especially female teachers, to work in under-served areas of the country.
  • Strengthen measures to monitor quality of instruction and teacher attendance.
  • Publicly prohibit all school staff from using any form of corporal punishment and take appropriate disciplinary action against any employee violating this rule.
  • Include mandatory training on alternative forms of class management and teacher discipline in all teacher trainings. Ensure teachers are adequately trained in positive forms of class management, and ensure teachers are provided with sufficient materials and tools to adequately manage large classrooms.
  • Ensure that all newly constructed schools have adequate boundary walls, safe and private toilets with hygiene facilities, and access to safe drinking water. Work promptly to install boundary walls, toilets with hygiene facilities and a safe drinking water source in existing schools that do not have them, with the goal of all schools having these facilities.

Improve Transparency and Accountability

  • Strengthen anti-corruption anti-nepotism mechanisms to ensure that anyone who encounters corruption or nepotism by government education officials has access to effective and responsive complaint mechanisms. Strengthen internal monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the performance of ministry efforts at the local, district, provincial and national levels, and make findings public.
  • Include in all job announcements and recruitment materials statements explaining that it is an offense for anyone to demand a bribe at any stage in the recruitment process for teachers and include information on how applicants can confidentially report any such demands. Appropriately sanction or seek prosecution of any official found to have demanded bribes.

Enforce Compulsory Education

  • Develop a phased plan to achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 4.1, by 2030 ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education. Gradually roll out compulsory education across the country, including through public awareness strategies, plans for engaging community leaders, and systems for identifying and engaging out-of-school children and their families.
  • Develop, and ensure compliance with, guidelines that require government schools to ensure that all children of compulsory school age enrol and complete at least lower secondary school.

To Non-State Armed Groups in Pakistan

  • Respect the right of girls and boys to education in all areas that are contested or under the influence or control of anti-government forces. Issue clear orders to all commanders and fighters forbidding them from attacking or threatening schools, teachers, students, and families of students.
  • Immediately cease all attacks against schools that are not lawful military objectives. Take appropriate disciplinary action against individuals who are responsible for unlawful attacks on schools.
  • Take appropriate disciplinary action against individuals responsible for attacks or threats against girls’ education. Order commanders and fighters not to interfere with the operation of schools.
  • Order commanders to avoid use of schools and school property for camps, barracks, deployment, or as depots for weapons, ammunition, and materiel in accordance with the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
  • Immediately cease the use of inherently indiscriminate weapons such as improvised explosive devices near schools as well as other populated areas.

To International Donors and Agencies Supporting Pakistan

  • Urge the government of Pakistan to comply with international and domestic laws and policies supporting girls’ right to education, including through implementation of the recommendations above.
  • Continue to fund girls’ education at current or higher levels until the government can devote sufficient government revenue to education to maintain the current system and expand it in order to meet the goal of universal access to primary and secondary education.
  • Ensure new construction of schools are funded, designed and constructed to include water and sanitation facilities. Provide funding and support to construct water and sanitation facilities in schools previously constructed that do not have adequate water and sanitation facilities.
  • Improve coordination among donors at the local level to ensure appropriate distribution across the country of donor-funded education services.
  • Work with the Pakistan government to discourage the military use of schools, encourage security forces to vacate occupied schools, and promote security force policies and practices that better protect schools.

 

Acknowledgments

This report was written by a Human Rights Watch researcher, based on research by that researcher and by an independent consultant. Elin Martinez, children’s rights researcher, contributed additional research.

The report was edited and reviewed by: Liesl Gerntholtz, director of women’s rights; Tom Porteous, deputy program director; Saroop Ijaz, Pakistan researcher; Zama Neff, children’s rights director; and Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor.

Production assistance was provided by Agnieszka Bielecka, associate in the Women’s Rights Division; Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager; and Jose Martinez, senior administration coordinator. 

Human Rights Watch would like to thank all the experts, activists, teachers, principals, and community leaders who kindly agreed to speak with us. We regret that the environment in Pakistan toward NGOs makes it unwise to thank them here by name. We acknowledge the important work Pakistani organizations are doing to push for, and achieve, education reform and to educate some of the children falling through the cracks in the existing system. Our greatest gratitude is, of course, for the girls and young women and their families who welcomed us into their homes and shared their stories with us.

 

 

[1] Rabea Malik and Pauline Rose, “Financing Education in Pakistan: Opportunities for Action,” Oslo Summit on Education for Development, 2015, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/pakista.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 3.

[2] Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, “The road to Naya Pakistan: PTI Manifesto 2018,” 2018, http://insaf.pk/public/insafpk/content/manifesto (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 44.

[3] United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), “State of the World’s Children data,” December 2017, https://data.unicef.org/resources/state-worlds-children-2017-statistical-tables/ (accessed September 12, 2018).

[4] According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as of 2016 4,901,479 children were out of school. 3,040,280 of these were girls, and 1,861,199 were boys. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “Pakistan,” http://uis.unesco.org/country/PK (accessed September 12, 2018).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Baela Raza Jamil, “Pakistan: all girls and boys in school for 12 years – a critical pathway to progress,” post to “World Education Blog,” (blog), Global Education Monitoring Report, 15 February 2016, https://gemreportunesco.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/pakistan-all-girls-and-boys-in-school-for-12-years-a-critical-pathway-to-progress/ (accessed September 12, 2018).

[7] UNESCO, “Accountability in education: Meeting Our Commitments. Global Education Monitoring Report,” 2017/18, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 362.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, p. 363.

[10] Several education experts interviewed for this reported also expressed concern that the curricula used in government schools reflect some of the tensions in broader society. The curricula vary at the provincial level. UNESCO International Bureau of Education, “Pakistan: Curriculum Design and Development,” undated, www.ibe.unesco.org/curriculum/Asia%20Networkpdf/ndreppk.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018). Echoing concerns consistently expressed by experts, one interviewee described the curriculum in her province as “indoctrination,” saying it taught no critical thinking, and was riddled with religious bias and harmful stereotypical representations of other provinces and ethnic groups, and contained messages encouraging extremism and even violence. “Radicalization doesn’t result from no education—it results from the wrong education,” she said. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with education expert (name withheld), September 15, 2018. UNESCO has raised similar concerns. UNESCO, “Accountability in education: Meeting Our Commitments. Global Education Monitoring Report,” 2017/18, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), pp. 220-221.

[11] Government of Pakistan Statistics Division, “Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey 2014-15,” March 2016, http://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files//pslm/publications/PSLM_2014-15_National-Provincial-District_report.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), pp. 17-24.

[12] “Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate, per 100,000 live births),” World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.STA.MMRT (accessed September 12, 2018).

[13] In October 2016, following public protests after Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani model, was killed by her brother, parliament passed an anti-honor killing law. The new law included harsher punishments and partially closed a loophole allowing legal heirs to pardon perpetrators who are usually also a relative. After the law was passed, however, high numbers of so-called “honor killings” continue, raising questions about the willingness of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute these cases, and to protect women and girls at risk. Saroop Ijaz, “‘Honor’ killings continue in Pakistan despite new law,” commentary, Human Rights Watch Dispatch, September 25, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/25/honor-killings-continue-pakistan-despite-new-law.

[14] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Basila, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[15] Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, “Private Sector Education in Pakistan: Mapping and Musing,” 2010, i-saps.org/upload/report_publications/docs/1401025704.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018).

[16] Ibid.

[17] “All Pakistan Private Schools’ Federation,” http://www.pakistanprivateschools.com/ (accessed September 12, 2018).

[18] E.g. Sabrina Tavernise, “Pakistan’s Religious School Fill Void, but Fuel Militancy,” New York Times, May 3, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/world/asia/04schools.html (accessed September 12, 2018).

[19] “About Us,” Citizens’ Foundation, undated, http://www.tcf.org.pk/#about (accessed September 12, 2018).

[20] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[21] Human Rights Watch interview with nongovernmental organization (NGO) worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with Fakhunda, Peshawar, August 6, 2017. Sometimes discrimination is built in to the provision of education; for example, one mother told Human Rights Watch about a school in Peshawar for Afghans which provides primary and secondary education for boys, but only primary education for girls.

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with Sana, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariam and Tehreem, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with government primary school teacher (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[26] Human Rights Watch interview with Fazeelah, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[27] Nadia Siddiqui and Stephen Gorard, “Comparing government and private schools in Pakistan: The way forward for universal education,” International Journal of al Journal of Educational Research, 82 (2017), pp. 159-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2017.01.007 (accessed September 12, 2018).

[28] Ibid.

[29] See, e.g.: Education and Literacy Department, Government of Sindh, “Sindh Education Sector Plan, 2014-2018,” 2014, https://www.globalpartnership.org/content/education-sector-plan-2014-2018-sindh-province-pakistan (accessed September 12, 2018); School Education Department, Government of Punjab, “Punjab School Education Sector Plan 2013-2017,” June 2013, http://aserpakistan.org/document/learning_resources/2014/Sector_Plans/Punjab%20Sector%20Plan%202013-2017.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018); Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, “Education Sector Plan 2010-2015,” April 2012, http://www.aserpakistan.org/document/learning_resources/2014/Sector_Plans/KP%20Sector%20Plan%202010-2015.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018); Policy Planning and Implementation Unit (PPIU), Education Department, Government of Balochistan, “Balochistan Education Sector Plan 2013-2018,” 2014, http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/planipolis/files/ressources/pakistan_balochistan_education_sector_plan.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018).

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Aziza, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[32] In Pakistan, 11th and 12th grade are taught in what are called “intermediate colleges,” often referred to as just college.

[33] Human Rights Watch interview with Alima, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with worker from a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with Razia, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[37] Annababette Wils, “Reaching education targets in low and lower-middle income countries: Costs and finance gaps to 2030, Paper commissioned for the “EFA Global Monitoring Report 2015, Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges,” 2015, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002325/232560e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 12.

[38] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) et al., “Education 2030: Framework for Action,” December 2015, art. 105. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002456/245656e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018).

[39] UNESCO, “Accountability in education: Meeting Our Commitments. Global Education Monitoring Report,” 2017/18, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 265; UNESCO, “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges,” http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 243.

[40] “Expenditure on education as a % of total expenditure: Pakistan,” World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GB.ZS?locations=PK (accessed September 12, 2018); “Government expenditure on education, total (% of GDP): Pakistan,” World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?locations=PK (accessed September 12, 2018).

[41] Andreas Benz, “The Crisis of School Education in Pakistan: Of Government’s Failure and New Hopes in the Growing Private Education Sector,” Internationales Asienforum, 43 (2012), No.3–4, http://crossasia-journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/iaf/article/viewFile/186/181 (accessed September 12, 2018), pp. 225-226.

[42] Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Government of Pakistan, “National Education Policy 2017,” 2017, http://www.moent.gov.pk/userfiles1/file/National%20Educaiton%20Policy%202017.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 160.

[43] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with education expert (name withheld), September 15, 2018.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with head of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[45] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with education expert (name withheld), September 15, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with education expert (name withheld), UK, September 8, 2018.

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.  

[47] Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, http://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1431341153_169.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018), article 25A.

[48] Human Rights Watch interviews with Hafsa and Zunaisha, Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Safina, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with Kaarima, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with Sahar, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Saira, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Palwashay, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with head of an NGO (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with local counselor (name withheld), Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[56] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Mumtaz, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[57] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with teacher at a government school (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[58] Government of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, “Social indicators of Pakistan 2016,” http://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files//SOCIAL%20INDICATORS%202016%20%20(FINAL)%20%20COLOUR%201.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), pp. 56-57.

[59] Ibid., p. 58.

[60] 9,399 boys’ schools, versus 3,880 for girls. “Detail of Government Schools in Balochistan,” Government of Balochistan, http://emis.gob.pk/Uploads/DETAIL%20OF%20GOVERNMENT%20SCHOOLS%20IN%20BALOCHISTAN.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018).

[61] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with education expert (name withheld), September 15, 2018.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with education expert, UK, 2018.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with Aisha, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Akifah, Karachi, July 28, 2017.

[65] Education Department, Government of Balochistan, “Balochistan Education Sector Plan 2013-2018,” 2014), p. 53.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Beenish, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Ghazal, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with principal of a private school (name withheld), Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[69] Human Rights Watch interviews with Asima and her parents, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[70] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Bina, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Asifa, Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Mina, Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[74] Transparency International, “Corruption Perception Index 2017,” https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017 (accessed September 12, 2018).

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of a government primary school (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with education expert, UK, 2018.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[79] UNESCO, “Accountability in education: Meeting Our Commitments. Global Education Monitoring Report,” 2017/18, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002593/259338e.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018), p. 269.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with private school staff member (name withheld), Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Beena and Alima, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Fazila, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with government middle school teacher (name withheld), Balochistan, January 2018.

87 Ibid.

 

[88] Mubarak Zeb Khan, “New poverty line makes a third of Pakistanis poor,” Dawn, April 8, 2016, https://www.dawn.com/news/1250694 (accessed September 12, 2018).

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Pariza, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[90] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Benazir, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Zarifah, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[93] Human Rights Watch interviews with Azwa, Ayesha, and Sidra, Karachi, July 31, 2017, Fazila, Lahore, July 18, 2017, and Bisharah, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[95] Human Rights Watch interviews with Pariza, Lahore, July 17, 2017, Fazila, Lahore, July 19, 2017, and Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[96] Human Rights Watch interviews with Bisharah, Lahore, July 18, 2017, and Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[97] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Benazir, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Paveena, Quetta, January 17, 2018.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with Muskaan, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Ann, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Alima, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[104] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Nazneen, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[105] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Eva, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Shumila, Quetta, January 17, 2018.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Asadah, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Najiba, Quetta, January 17, 2018.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Sahar, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Busrah, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[111] Education Department, Government of Balochistan, “Balochistan Education Sector Plan 2013-2018,” 2014, p. 10.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariam and Tehreem, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with Atifa, Hakimah, and Zafra, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with Layla, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with head of an NGO (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[116] Human Rights Watch interviews with government primary school teacher (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017, and government high school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with government high school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with government school principal (name withheld), Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Maryan, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with the head of a youth center (name withheld), Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[122] E.g. Human Rights Watch interviews with private school teacher, Lahore, July 19, 2017, and headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with staff of a youth center (names withheld), Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with government high school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with government school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Marzia, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Maryam, Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[129] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Anusha and Zafira, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with director of an NGO (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster at government primary school (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with education expert (name withheld), UK, 2017.

[133] UNESCO, “Accountability in education: Meeting Our Commitment. Global Education Monitoring Report,” 2017/18, p. 356.

[134] E.g. Caitlin Gruer, “Menstruation matters: That’s the bottom line,” Global Partnership for Education, March 9, 2017, https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/menstruation-matters-thats-bottom-line (accessed September 13, 2018).

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with Anusha and Zafira, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Shazia, Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with education expert (name withheld), UK, 2017.

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with government primary school teacher (name withheld), Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of government primary school (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[141] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with head of an NGO (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[143] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with education expert (name withheld), UK, September 15, 2018.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with a private school principal (name and location withheld), July 2017.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[147] Human Rights Watch interview with head of an NGO (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with principal of a private school (name withheld), Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulrukh, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[150] Human Rights Watch interviews with Basma and Najma, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Rukhsana, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Atifa, Hakimah, and Zafra, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[153] Human Rights Watch interview with Somia, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Aliya, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[155] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaheen, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[156] Human Rights Watch interview with Atifa, Hakimah, and Zafra, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Noor, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[158] Human Rights Watch interview with Asifa, Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Basma, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with Najma, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Tamana, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with Aliya, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[163] Human Rights Watch interview with Noor, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[164] Human Rights Watch interview with Malaika, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Farzana, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Salma, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[167] A CNIC is a “Computerized National Identification Card,” a card issued by the Pakistan government to adult Pakistan citizens, which citizens living in the country are required to register for. A CNIC is required for many actions such as voting, obtaining a passport or driver’s license, or booking a plane ticket. It is also often required from a parent wishing to register their child in government school, although this rule seems to be not always present, and not always enforced. It is less likely to be an issue outside of the government school system. Some parents may have lost CNICs, never obtained them in the first place, or faced barriers obtaining them because of issues like difficulties proving citizenship.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Samra and her mother, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[169] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulrukh, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with government school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[171] Human Rights Watch interview with Khadijah, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with the head of a youth center (name withheld), Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with Ayesha, Parveen, and Sara, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[174] Human Rights Watch interview with government primary school teacher (name withheld), Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[175] Human Rights Watch interview with Aqiba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[176] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariam and Tehreem, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[177] Human Rights Watch interview with Pariza, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview with Halima, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[179] Human Rights Watch interview with Muskaan, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[180] Human Rights Watch interview with Talween, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[181] Human Rights Watch interviews with Shakila, Asima, and Asima’s father, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[182] Human Rights Watch interview with Aisha, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[183] Human Rights Watch interview with Noor, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[184] Human Rights Watch interview with Sheherbano, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[185] Human Rights Watch interview with Rania, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[186] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[187] Human Rights Watch interview with Basooma, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[188] Human Rights Watch interview with Azwa, Ayesha, and Sidra, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[189] Human Rights Watch interviews with Nadia and Sahar Gul, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[190] Conversely, families sometimes made a special effort to educate the youngest child or children in the family, often aided by earnings of eldest children who were already working. E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Muskaan, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[191] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabia, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[192] Human Rights Watch interview with Aynoor, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[193] Human Rights Watch interview with Parween, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[194]“The Elimination of Child Labour and Promotion of Decent Work in the Stora Enso Value Chain, with a Focus on Pakistan,” International Labour Organization (ILO), undated but the project duration is 2015-2017, http://www.ilo.org/islamabad/whatwedo/projects/WCMS_427005/lang--en/index.htm (accessed September 13, 2018).

[195] US Department of Labor—Department of International Labor Affairs, “Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports—Pakistan,” 2016, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/pakistan#_ENREF_5 (accessed September 13, 2018).

[196] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[197] Human Rights Watch interview with labor rights expert (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[198] Human Rights Watch interview with director of a community-based organization (name withheld), Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of government primary school (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[201] Human Rights Watch interview with labor rights expert (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[202] Human Rights Watch interviews with local activist (name withheld), Karachi, July 26, 2017, and Busrah, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[203] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker (name withheld), Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[204] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariam and Tehreem, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[205] Human Rights Watch interview with Samika, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[206] Human Rights Watch interview with Azeeba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[207] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahvish, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[208] Human Rights Watch interview with Tamana, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[209] E.g. Iftikhar Khan, “Child labour: Lack of coherent reforms in Pakistan, News Tribune, July 1, 2017, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1447383/child-labour-lack-coherent-reforms-pakistan/ (accessed September 13, 2018).

[210] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO worker assisting brick workers (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[211] Ibid.

[212] Human Rights Watch interview with Yasmina and her family, Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[213] UNESCO, “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges,” p. 124.

[214] Human Rights Watch interview with teacher at government school (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[215] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO gender expert (name withheld), Lahore, July 20, 2017.

[216] Human Rights Watch interview with Humaira, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[217] Human Rights Watch interview with Asiya, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[218] Human Rights Watch interview with Farkhunda, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[219] Human Rights Watch interview with government school teacher (name withheld), Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[220] Human Rights Watch interview with Amina and Fatima, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[221] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO gender expert (name withheld), Punjab, July 20, 2017.

[222] Human Rights Watch interview with Sima, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[223] Human Rights Watch interview with Batool, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[224] Human Rights Watch interview with Salma, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[225] Human Rights Watch interview with Muskaan, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[226] Human Rights Watch interview with Azra, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[227] Human Rights Watch interview with NGO gender expert (name withheld), Lahore, July 20, 2017.

[228] Human Rights Watch interview with Zainab, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[229] Human Rights Watch interview with Anisa, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[230] Human Rights Watch interview with Aliya, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[231] Human Rights Watch interview with Afsha, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with Mumtaz, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[233] Human Rights Watch interview with Zarafshan, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[234] Human Rights Watch interview with Baheerah, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[235] Human Rights Watch interview with Azrah, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[236] Human Rights Watch interview with Zaneerah, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[237] Human Rights Watch interview with Yasmina, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with Lily, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[239] United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage,” 2002, http://aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/UNFPA_2012_Marrying_too_young.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018).

[240] Human Rights Watch interview with Ayesha, Parveen, and Sara, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[241] Human Rights Watch interview with Saira, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[242] Human Rights Watch interview with Aisha, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[243] Human Rights Watch interview with Faiza, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[244] Human Rights Watch interview with Marjan, Lahore, July 17, 2017. 

[245] Human Rights Watch interview with Saira, Karachi, July 26, 2017.

[246] Human Rights Watch interview with Raheebah and Tamima, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[247] Human Rights Watch interview with Dinah, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[248] Human Rights Watch interview with Sumbul and Aziza, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[249] Human Rights Watch interview with Zarmina, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[250] Human Rights Watch interview with Azwa, Ayesha, and Sidra, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[251] Human Rights Watch interview with Saba, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[252] Human Rights Watch interview with Kanwal, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[253] Human Rights Watch interview with Layla, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[254] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Mumtaz, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[255] E.g. Human Rights Watch interview with Rukhsana, Karachi, July 29, 2017.

[256] Human Rights Watch interview with Zunaisha, Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[257] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaista, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[258] Human Rights Watch interview with education expert (name withheld), UK, 2017.

[259] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaista, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[260] Human Rights Watch interview with Hafsa, Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[261] Human Rights Watch interview with Layla, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[262] Human Rights Watch interview with Fawzia, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[263] Human Rights Watch interview with Parveen, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[264] Human Rights Watch interview with Fazeelah, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[265] Human Rights Watch interview with Layla, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[266] Human Rights Watch interview with government middle school teacher (name withheld), Balochistan, January 2018.

[267] Human Rights Watch interview with Basma and Najma, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[268] Human Rights Watch, Dreams Turned into Nightmares: Attacks on Students, Teachers and Schools in Pakistan, March 2017, https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/27/dreams-turned-nightmares/attacks-students-teachers-and-schools-pakistan.

[269] Ibid.

[270] Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), “Education Under Attack 2018: Country Profiles: Pakistan,” May 2018, http://protectingeducation.org/sites/default/files/documents/eua2018_pakistan.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018), p. 1.

[271] GCPEA, “Education Under Attack 2018,” May 2018, http://eua2018.protectingeducation.org/ (accessed September 13, 2018), p. 33.

[272] Ibid., p. 49.

[273] “Pakistan: Surge in Militant Attacks on Schools,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 3, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/03/pakistan-surge-militant-attacks-schools.

[274] Ibid.

[275] Human Rights Watch interview with Abda and Zarghona, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[276] Human Rights Watch interview with Zunaisha, Peshawar, August 8, 2017.

[277] Human Rights Watch interview with Naira, Quetta, January 2018.

[278] Human Rights Watch interview with activist (name withheld), Quetta, January 2018.

[279] Human Rights Watch interview with Marzia, Karachi, July 30, 2017.

[280] National Counter Terrorism Authority Pakistan, “20 Points of The National Actions Plan,” http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/document/papers/Nationa... (accessed September 13, 2018).

[281] Human Rights Watch, Dreams Turned into Nightmares: Attacks on Students, Teachers and Schools in Pakistan, March 2017, https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/27/dreams-turned-nightmares/attacks-students-teachers-and-schools-pakistan.

[282] Human Rights Watch interview with Azeeba, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[283] Human Rights Watch interview with Paveena, Quetta, January 17, 2018.

[284] Human Rights Watch interview with Mumtaz, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[285] Human Rights Watch interview with Samika, Lahore, July 21, 2017.

[286] Human Rights Watch interview with Sidra, Quetta, January 17, 2018.

[287] Human Rights Watch interview with headmaster of private school in a small town (name withheld), Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[288] Human Rights Watch interview with Tamana, Lahore, July 17, 2017.

[289] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabiya and Zahida, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[290] Human Rights Watch interview with Salima, Punjab, July 19, 2017.

[291] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabiya and Zahida, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[292] Human Rights Watch interview with Fawzia, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[293] Human Rights Watch interview with Basma, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[294] Human Rights Watch interview with Priya, Peshawar, August 5, 2017.

[295] Human Rights Watch interview with Samah, Lahore, July 18, 2017.

[296] Human Rights Watch interview with a researcher on education (name withheld), Lahore, July 19, 2017.

[297] Human Rights Watch interview with Humaira, Karachi, July 25, 2017.

[298] Human Rights Watch interviews with Aisha, Bushrah, and Mubashir, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[299] Human Rights Watch interview with government primary school teacher (name withheld), Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[300] Human Rights Watch interview with Parizad, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[301] Human Rights Watch interview with Anisa, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[302] Human Rights Watch interview with Taslima, Samina, and Mahmuda, Karachi, July 31, 2017.

[303] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabiya and Zahida, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[304] Human Rights Watch interview with Layla, Karachi, July 27, 2017.

[305] E.g. Asif Chaudry and Fahad Naveed, “Why are so many of our children going missing?” Dawn, August 15, 2016, https://www.dawn.com/news/1276916 (accessed September 13, 2018).

[306] Human Rights Watch interview with Alishba, Peshawar, August 6, 2017.

[307] Human Rights Watch interview with Kamila, Balochistan, January 18, 2018.

[308] Human Rights Watch interviews with Asiya and Zaneerah, Peshawar, August 7, 2017.

[309] Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990., art. 6. Pakistan ratified the CRC in November 1990. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A.Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force January 3, 1976. Pakistan ratified the ICESCR in April 2008.

[310] Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, art. 37(b).

[311] Ibid., art. 25-A.

[312] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted December 18, 1979, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981. Pakistan acceded to CEDAW in March 1996.

[313] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment 3, The nature of States parties' obligations (Fifth session, 1990), U.N. Doc. E/1991/23, paras. 2 and 9.

[314] ICESCR, arts. 13 and 2; see also UN Economic and Social Council, Preliminary report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Ms. Katarina Tomasevski, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/33, E/CN.4/1999/49, January 13, 1999, http://repository.un.org/bitstream/handle/11176/223172/E_CN.4_1999_49-EN... (accessed September 13, 2018).

[315] CESCR, General Comment No. 13, The Right to Education (Art. 13 of the Covenant), U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), para. 23.

[316] Ibid., paras. 11–12.

[317] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted December 10, 1948, G.A. Res. 217A(III), U.N. Doc. A/810 at 71 (1948), art. 26; ICESCR, art. 13(2)(b); CRC, art. 28. Technical and vocational education and training refers to all forms and levels of the educational process involving, in addition to general knowledge, the study of technologies and related sciences and the acquisition of practical skills, know-how, attitudes and understanding relating to occupations in the various sectors of economic and social life. Convention on Technical and Vocational Education 1989, adopted November 10, 1989, No. 28352, art. 1(a). For further information, see also Convention on Technical and Vocational Education, November 10, 1989, art. 3. http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13059&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html (accessed September 13. 2018).

[318] ICESCR, art. 13(d). According to the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All, “sound basic education is fundamental to the strengthening of higher levels of education and of scientific and technological literacy and capacity and thus to self-reliant development.” Basic education “should be provided to all children, youth and adults … [and] should be expanded and consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities.” World Conference on Education for All, World Declaration on Education For All and Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, Jomtien, Thailand, March 1990, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001275/127583e.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018), art. 3(1)-(2).

[319] CESCR, General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13), para. 6 (a)–(d).

[320] Ibid.

[321] CESCR, “Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2, para. 2, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights),” General Comment No. 20, E/C.12/GC/20 (2009), http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a60961f2.html (accessed September 13, 2018), para. 10 (b).

[322] Ibid.

[323] CEDAW, art. 1.

[324] CEDAW, art. 2.

[325] CEDAW, art. 5(a).

[326] CESCR, General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),” para. 6(c).

[327] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “The Aims of Education (article 29),” General Comment No. 1, CRC/GC/2001/1 (2001), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/GC1_en.doc (accessed September 13, 2018).

[328] Ibid., para. 22.

[329] CRC, arts. 28(1) and 2(1).

[330] CESCR, General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),” para. 59.

[331] CESCR, General Comment 9, The Domestic Application of the Covenant, E/C.12/1998/24, http://www.refworld.org/docid/47a7079d6.html (accessed September 13, 2018), paras. 2, 9. See also, CESCR, General Comment 3, The Nature of States Parties Obligations, E/1991/23, http://www.refworld.org/docid/4538838e10.html (accessed September 13, 2018), para. 5.

[332] CESCR, General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),”, para. 31. See also, CESCR, General Comment 11, Plans of Action for Primary Education, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/4 (May 10, 1999), para. 10; and CESCR, General Comment 3,, para. 2 (stating that the obligation to guarantee the exercise of rights in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights without discrimination is "of immediate effect").

[333] CEDAW, art.16 (2).

[334] CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 21, Equality in Marriage and Family Relations, (Thirteenth Session, 1994), para. 36; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (Thirty-third session, 2003), para. 20.

[335] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of Child, CRC/GC/2003/4, (2003), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Health/GC4.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018), paras. 16, 20, and 35 (g).

[336] CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 21, Equality in Marriage and Family Relations, (Thirteenth Session, 1994), para. 36; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” (Thirty-third session, 2003), para. 20.

[337] See, for example, CEDAW Committee, “Concluding Observations of the Committee to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Uganda,” October 22, 2010, para.31, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-UGA-CO-7.pdf (accessed September 13, 2018).

[338] Saroop Ijaz, “Pakistan Should End Child Marriage,” commentary, Human Rights Watch Dispatch, October 12, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/12/pakistan-should-end-child-marriage.

[339] CRC, art. 32.

[340] C138 - Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (Entry into force: June 19, 1976), ratified by Pakistan on July 6, 2006 stating a minimum age of 14; C182 - Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Entered into force November 19, 2000), ratified by Pakistan on October 11, 2001.

[341] Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, article 11(3).

[342] CRC, art. 19(1). See Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and Save The Children, “Towards non-violent schools: prohibiting all corporal punishment, Global report 2015,” May 2015, https://endcorporalpunishment.org/resources/thematic-publications/school... (accessed September 13, 2018), pp. 4–5.

[343] CRC, art. 28(2).

[344] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 8 (2006): The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts.19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia),” CRC/C/GC/8 (2007), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 13, 2018), para. 11.

[345] UN Human Rights Committee, “General Comment No. 20: Article 7 (Prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment),” A/44/40, (1992), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 13, 2018), para. 5.

[346] Ibid., para. 5.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Video

Video: Girls Deprived of Education in Pakistan

More than 22 million children in Pakistan are out of school, and the majority of them are girls. The Pakistan government should do more to provide all children with access to education.

(London) – The Pakistan government is failing to educate a huge proportion of the country’s girls, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 111-page report, “‘Shall I Feed My Daughter, or Educate Her?’: Barriers to Girls’ Education in Pakistan,” concludes that many girls simply have no access to education, including because of a shortage of government schools – especially for girls. Nearly 22.5 million of Pakistan’s children – in a country with a population of just over 200 million – are out of school, the majority of them girls. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared with 21 percent of boys. By ninth grade, only 13 percent of girls are still in school.

“The Pakistan government’s failure to educate children is having a devastating impact on millions of girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Many of the girls we interviewed are desperate to study, but instead are growing up without the education that would help them have options for their future.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 209 people for the report – most of them with girls who never attended school or were unable to complete their education, and their families – in all four of Pakistan’s provinces: Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. Human Rights Watch also interviewed parents, educators, experts, and activists, and visited schools.

Among the factors keeping girls out of school, Human Rights Watch found, are the government’s under-investment in schools, lack of schools, prohibitive school fees and related costs, corporal punishment, and a failure to enforce compulsory education. Human Rights Watch also found poor quality within both government and low-cost private schools, a lack of government regulation of private schools, and corruption.

Witness: Creating Neighborhood Schools in Pakistan

Witness: Creating Neighborhood Schools in Pakistan

Shazia, a teacher who grew up playing in Lyari’s streets, has long worried about the swarms of kids there, some getting in trouble, very few attending school. She wanted them to have a better future, so she quit her paying teaching job and founded the Lyari school – where neighborhood children can study for free.

In addition to these factors within the education system, girls are also blocked from attending school by external factors including child labor, gender discrimination, child marriage, sexual harassment, insecurity, and attacks on education.

The Pakistan government has consistently invested far less in education than is recommended by international standards. As of 2017, Pakistan was spending less than 2.8 percent of its gross domestic product on education – far below the recommended 4 to 6 percent – leaving the government’s education system severely under-funded. Government schools are in such short supply that even in Pakistan’s major cities, many children cannot reach a school on foot safely in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas. And there are many more schools for boys than for girls.

Aisha, around age 30, lives with her husband and their six children in an area of Peshawar where the nearest government school for boys, offering nursery school through 10th grade, is less than a five-minute walk away. The nearest government school for girls is a 30-minute walk and goes only through fifth grade. Aisha’s daughter left school when she was 9 because of her parents’ concerns about her safety walking to school.

Students at morning exercises at Behar Colony Government Secondary school for girls located in the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. 

© Insiya Syed for Human Rights Watch, September 2018.
“Even parents who are not educated themselves understand that their daughters’ future depends on them going to school, but the government is abandoning these families,” Gerntholtz said. “Pakistan’s future depends on educating its children, including its girls.”

An “upward bottleneck” exists as children, especially girls, get older. Secondary schools are in shorter supply than primary schools, and colleges have even less capacity, especially for girls. Many girls who complete the top level at one school cannot access a school where they could go on to the next level. In the absence of an adequate system of government schools, there has been a massive growth in the number of private schools, many of them low-cost. But poor families often cannot afford any tuition fees and the government’s near-total failure to regulate and monitor these schools means that many are of poor quality.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party’s manifesto promises major reforms to the education system, including for girls’ education. “We will prioritise establishment and upgradation of girls’ schools and provide stipends to girls and women for continuing their education,” the manifesto says. It pledges to “put in place the most ambitious education agenda in Pakistan’s history, spanning reform of primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational, and special education.”

“The government recognizes that education reform is desperately needed and promises to make this a priority, especially for girls – a positive step,” Gerntholtz said. “We hope that our findings will help the government to diagnose the problems and identify solutions that will give every Pakistani girl a bright future.”

Selected Quotes from People Interviewed

Lack of investment and shortage of government schools

“I could send them if there was a government school.”
—Akifah, 28, mother of three children, ages 10, 8, and 7. The family moved from a village near Multan to Karachi three years earlier, looking for work, and had no choice but to settle in an area where there were only private schools the family cannot afford, and no government schools within reach.

“My parents said, ‘If you are interested enough you can walk there.’ Whoever wanted to, went. I found it too far. The path is lonely and isolated and there have been cases of two or three kidnappings in that area… But then I realized I needed to study so I convinced my parents and I got friends to go so we walked to school together.”
—Asifa, 20, in Punjab, who delayed attending school until she was 9 or 10 because it was a 45-minute walk from her village. The school only went through eighth grade, so after that she went to live with her sister in a town where grades nine and ten were available. 

“The state has never taken education seriously—proper resources have never been allocated in any state. The problem is the priories of government—education is not a priority and they don’t allocate the budget.”
—Head of a nongovernmental organization working on women’s rights, Punjab.

“[E]very mother wants their child to be educated, but there is not a state system to deliver the services.”
—Head of a community-based organization, Karachi.

Gender discrimination in the government’s provision of schools

“If you have 10 schools for boys, you have 5 for girls.”
—An education expert from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Poverty and the cost of education

“The government doesn’t help the poor. We can’t educate our children, and we can’t feed ourselves.”
—Rukhsana, 30, mother of three out-of-school children, whose husband is rarely able to work due to illness, who was unable to pay for school fees and related costs, Karachi.

“The school may be free, but there are always demands for money for something or the other. Copies, stationery, every day there is a new expense. A school bag alone costs 500 rupees [US$4.76]…. Every day, every day, it’s something.”
—Zarifah, a mother of five out-of-school children, Balochistan.

“I wanted my daughters to get educated, but I couldn’t because of poverty. My husband’s salary is 12,000 rupees [$114] a month. At the end of the month, we are always out [of money] and wonder what to do – it is all gone. I want a school for girls who belong to poor families.”

—Halima, 38, in Karachi, mother of five daughters, ages 13 to 19, none of whom studied more than a year or two. Her husband works in a chewing gum factory.

Quality concerns and corruption

“A lot of times the teacher showed up late or he would not show up at all. We would just go and sit and then come home.”
—Hakimah, 17, Karachi, describing her primary school.

“For the last five years, everyone has to pay [to obtain a government teaching position]. It’s worth it just for the salary – it’s an investment. This has an impact on the quality of the teaching – there’s no teaching.”
—Director of a community-based organization, Karachi.

“Once or twice a year they [inspectors] come, unannounced. They come for a half hour. They want tea and to be entertained. You have to please them or they will say that your school is not good. Once I made the inspector wait and he got mad and left and said, ‘I will write a bad report.’ My colleague went to his house and gave him 25,000 rupees [$238] and we got a good report.”
—Private school principal, describing government monitoring of the school, Punjab.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

More than 22 million children in Pakistan are out of school, and the majority of them are girls. The Pakistan government should do more to provide all children with access to education.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale on September 19, 2010

© 2010 Reuters

Diamond Industry Fails to Clean Up its Act

The diamond industry must deliver on its promise that consumers can trust the diamonds they purchase are sourced, traded, and processed responsibly, said a coalition of concerned civil society organizations today.

“Time is up for the diamond industry. Image is everything to the value of diamonds, yet the industry continues to be tainted by association with human rights abuses like child labour and forced labour, as well as conflict, environmental damage, and corruption. If the diamond industry genuinely wants to address these issues, it needs to clean-up its act and no longer approach respect for human rights and responsible business as an optional exercise,” Joanne Lebert, IMPACT’s Executive Director.

The appeal comes as members of the international community gather in Brussels for the Kimberley Process Plenary—the initiative through which participating governments certify rough diamonds as conflict-free, using a narrow definition of diamonds that have been used by rebel groups to finance their activities.[i]  The diamond industry is represented in the Kimberley Process by the World Diamond Council (WDC), an umbrella group for the world’s largest diamond producers, jewellers, and exchanges.

The WDC announced on October 25 that its members had passed proposed reforms to its flagship self-regulation instrument, known as the System of Warranties. Through the new System of Warranties Guidelines, the diamond industry claims to provide assurances to consumers beyond the Kimberley Process certificate that their diamonds have been sourced, processed and traded responsibly. However, despite the reforms, the System of Warranties still falls far short of international standards for responsible company behavior—including by stating that respect for human rights by companies is “voluntary.”

“This so-called upgrade by the WDC to its self-regulation guidelines appears to be more of a token attempt to appease criticism of the diamond industry’s failings than a real step towards ensuring that the diamond trade does not continue to fuel human rights abuses. We’re calling on companies to acknowledge and act on their individual responsibility to tackle the trade in diamonds associated with harms,” said Sophia Pickles, Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

Companies in the diamond industry are individually responsible for carrying out steps to respect human rights in their supply chains, in line with established international standards on business and human rights including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.

Under these standards, companies have a responsibility to identify human rights risks, take action to prevent or mitigate those risks and account for their human rights impacts. To be credible and legitimate, any industry scheme in the minerals sector—like the WDC’s System of Warranties—must align with the globally-endorsed standards and ensure that respect for human rights is integrated throughout the full supply chain. However, despite the existence of these standards for responsible company behavior, which if implemented in full would fill the gaps in human rights responsibilities under the Kimberley Process, the diamond industry itself has persistently failed to take meaningful measures to clean up the diamond trade.

While the revised System of Warranties Guidelines refer to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD standard for responsible sourcing and trading of minerals, members are only “encouraged” to avoid causing or contributing to abuses, to “reject” the worst forms of child labor, and to “educate themselves on” rather than implement the OECD standard. A WDC “Explanatory Paper” on the reforms clearly states that “Human & Labour Rights Issues” are “Voluntary.”

“The diamond industry may have once been seen as leaders on the international stage, tackling issues of conflict-affected diamond supply chains by supporting the establishment of the Kimberley Process. But now they are failing to catch up with international standards for responsible business practices, despite myriad opportunities for reform over the last ten years. The international position is clear—respecting human rights is not optional for companies. The WDC must require its members to act in line with international standards,” said Lucy Graham, Researcher at Amnesty International. 

“Instead of providing an assurance that diamonds are being sourced responsibly in line with international standards, these revised Guidelines will leave individuals and communities at very real risk of exploitation and other serious harms, and will leave consumers with a false sense of assurance that their jewellery has not contributed to those abuses. This is far from the best that the diamond industry can do,” said Brad Brooks-Rubin, Managing Director of The Enough Project and The Sentry.

When faced with the opportunity for reforms, the diamond industry is evading the responsibilities it has to diamond-producing and diamond-manufacturing communities—and to all who buy its diamonds. This is not delivering on the WDC’s promise that consumers “can trust the diamonds they purchase to have been source responsibly and ethically.”

“If this claim is to have any credence and go beyond pure lip service, the diamond industry must urgently take meaningful measures to bring itself into line with international standards,” said Juliane Kippenberg from Human Rights Watch.  

Organizations that have signed on to this appeal:

Amnesty International

Enough Project

Global Witness

Human Rights Watch

IMPACT


[i] The Kimberley Process’s narrow definition of a conflict diamond is one of the major loopholes of the certification scheme, meaning that it does not address the much broader range of human rights concerns that continue to be associated with the diamond supply chain.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A girl crosses a stream as she walks to school in Margalla Hills, Islamabad, October 24, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters
Pakistan’s human rights minister, Shireen M. Mazari, recently spoke of her government’s commitment to advancing human rights for all Pakistani citizens. A proposed bill sent yesterday to Pakistan’s Senate that seeks to end child marriage is an excellent opportunity for the government to make good on that commitment.

According to UNICEF, 21 percent of Pakistani girls are married by the age of 18, and 3 percent before 15. Child marriage tends to occur in the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable communities and has devastating consequences: Girls who marry are more likely to drop out of school than other girls, they face greater pregnancy-related health risks than women, and their babies are more likely to have health problems. Married girls are more likely to face domestic violence than woman who marry later. Additionally, child marriage sinks families deeper into poverty.

This could change if Pakistan’s government passes an important bill, submitted by Senator Sherry Rehman, suggesting amendments to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The bill seeks to completely ban marriage before the age of 18.

Pakistan’s current law sets the legal marriage age at 16 for girls and 18 for boys, setting different, and thereby discriminatory, marriage ages for girls and boys. But even this law is rarely enforced, as the Pakistani courts often apply Sharia (Islamic law) instead, which they interpret as allowing any girl who has gone through puberty to marry.

The Pakistani government has a number of key rights challenges, yet it should also focus on the rights of girls and women. Girls often have little or no say in the timing of their marriage, or their choice of spouse. Under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries around the world, including Pakistan, pledged to end all marriage before age 18 by 2030. They have their work cut out for them: around the world, a girl under 18 marries nearly every two seconds.

Pakistan’s children should not have to wait any longer for the government to act. By supporting the proposed amendments, the government can take an important first step towards ending child marriage.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A health worker prepares a syringe with a vaccine against measles. Health authorities in Thailand are trying to contain a measles outbreak in the country's southern provinces, where at least 13 deaths and more than 1,500 cases have been reported since September.

© Creative Commons

Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to save a child’s life. Two doses of the measles vaccine into a child’s arm or thigh is almost 100 percent effective at preventing a disease that starts with a simple fever, but can rapidly progress and have deadly complications. Since 2000, the safe, inexpensive, and effective measles vaccine has prevented more than 20 million deaths.

But sometimes words can be enough to kill a child. That’s happening now in southern Thailand, where a 9-month-old girl has become at least the 13th measles fatality in the past six months. The cause of the disease outbreak that has infected thousands isn’t poverty, neglect, or a poor health system. It’s because certain local Islamic teachers are preaching the vaccine is somehow un-Islamic, leading to a drop in vaccination rates and a quick revival of the deadly disease.

The Chularatchamontri – Thailand’s top Muslim spiritual leader – rejects that vaccinations are contrary to Islamic principles. The Central Islamic Council of Thailand has said that even if vaccines contained religiously prohibited items, the medical benefit to a person and the community would take precedence. Globally, imams and other Islamic leaders have repeatedly issued statements and fatwas describing how immunization is consistent with Islamic principles.

The disinformation campaign opposing vaccinations is likely linked to local leaders who support separatist movements in Thailand’s Muslim-majority southern provinces. Separatist insurgents have burned down public health centers, murdered public health volunteers and hospital staff, and used a hospital for military purposes – all violations of international humanitarian law. They target the public health system as symbolic of what they consider to be the Thai Buddhist state’s occupation of their homeland. But it’s a tactic that kills children in their community. 

Vaccination programs have been successful elsewhere in Thailand in saving children from this uniquely contagious disease. Dissuading vaccinations for preventable diseases is less direct than burning down public health centers or placing a bomb outside a school, but it can lead to equally devastating consequences. The work of the doctors and public health officials to ensure all children in southern Thailand are vaccinated should be allowed to proceed without interference. Children’s lives depend upon it.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am